Odds are, you’re probably already part of an online group. Maybe it’s for your favorite brand of leggings or health shakes that a friend sells. Maybe it’s an interest group related to your hobbies or your profession. Maybe it’s a small, secret group of friends that provides one safe corner of the internet where you can vent in peace.
It’s not a coincidence that so many of these “communities” turn to groups to stay connected, particularly on Facebook. It’s also why I’m starting my own reader/interest group (and hoping you might join me there!)
Though I absolutely believe that self-publishing was the right step for me, I will say that there has been a tremendous learning curve over the past year, and a sizable portion of that “learning” has been about how to connect with readers via marketing, promotions and social media.
Especially when you don’t really have any, um, marketing budget to speak of…
I’ve been lucky that I feel comfortable sharing my romance novels with my “in real life” community — friends, family members, Zumba buddies, colleagues, etc. This has been a huge boost, as so many of them have supported me in this first year of publishing. To put this in contrast, I have author friends who, for a variety of reasons, don’t share their creative work with their real life connections, and then they truly have to build their audience from scratch.
But then the question becomes, once you get this group of readers and supporters, how do you best connect with them? Facebook continues to be a popular platform for romance reader engagement, particularly because the demographics line up fairly well, but the algorithms don’t always work in your favor. Really, there are three choices for connecting with your community on Facebook.
First, you can have an “official page,” which I do (feel free to “like” or follow me there!) Based on conversations with other authors and my own anecdotal experiences, these official pages don’t get a lot of visibility without paid “boosts” and promotions through Facebook, which seems to sort of assume that if you have this kind of a page, that you’re a business with money to burn. There’s also limited functionality with this type of page. For instance, I can’t join a group via this page since I’m not considered “a person” in this capacity.
So, the workaround here is to create an actual account for your pen name, which I have. Here, readers and fellow writers can “friend” me as Jess Vonn ( feel free to!), and I have all the functionality in that space as anyone else with a Facebook account — I can react to and share posts, join groups, etc. This works especially well for people who know me in real life and want to follow my author adventures, but my sense is that readers who don’t know me personally may be less likely to “friend me,” as this feels like a more personal form of connection. Additionally, as you’ve likely figured out with your own friends’ list, just because someone posts something, it doesn’t mean you’ll see it, and vice versa. There are lots of complicated, behind-the-scenes factors that go into what our feeds look like, and who sees (or doesn’t see) our content.
Both of these options are okay, but there’s a third option that many authors and other entrepreneurs have found to be really helpful in terms of reliable communication: creating a Facebook group. The advantages of the group are that active members get notifications when you post, and there’s increased functionality including creating polls, creating events for your group, etc. This is right up there with newsletters (yes, old-fashioned newsletters!) in terms of the best direct connections to your community.
There’s a part of me that worries about bothering people too much, or asking too much of my readers, but at the end of the day, I decided that if people are interested in my books or my creative journey, then like me, they’d actually prefer a form of communication that ensures that they’re in the loop. My plan for my reader group is:
- To post once or twice a week (no spam and no constant “selling,” I pinky promise!)
- To include extras that are only available in my reader group (deleted scenes, hints at future work, excerpts from works-in-progress)
- To share the occasional book review and recommendation or favorite link from the internet
- And to host fun giveaways (my first initiative is to launch The Summer of Happy Mail, with weekly cute + sassy goodies to give away.)
If I’m honest, the groups I’m a part of online are some of my favorite internet ecosystems. They feel like a neighborhood park or the water cooler where I meet up with my favorite people to laugh and share stories. I want my reader group to be a happy corner of the internet for lovers of romance, reading and pop culture, and I’d love it if you’d join me there!
Join here!: The Sass Castle on Facebook
P.S. Anyone who joins my group by the end of the day Thursday, June 21, (the first day of summer!) will be automatically entered into my first “Summer of Happy Mail” giveaway (see pics of the goodies below: some adorable ice cream stickers, some sassy summer patches, a hand-made-by-Jess-Vonn magnet, and a super cute summer notebook!)
Jess Vonn is the author of the “Love by The Seasons” series. Her first two books, A Time to Fall and Warm Me in Winter, are available on Amazon. The third book publishes in June 2018. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.