Justine: Tips for Reader Groups on Facebook

caitlyn oleary fb group header

This is the Facebook header for Caitlyn O’Leary’s Facebook group called Caitlyn’s Crew. You can get an idea of not only what she writes, but the general vibe of the group based on her group logo. Image copyright Caitlyn O’Leary.

A couple weekends ago, I attended the California Dreamin’ Writer’s Conference. It was a lot of fun, and, as I promised when I originally blogged about it, I have some goodies to share with you from some of the workshops I attended.

One of the most fun workshops was about creating Superfans, put on by Caitlyn O’Leary (who is devilishly funny and very sarcastic…she puts it all out on display, and I think it’s one of the things her readers love about her, besides good writing, of course!).

One of the first things Caitlyn talked about was creating an author “brand.” However, she didn’t quite mean it in the “what-do-your-business-cards-look-like” kind of way. Nor did she mean it as “book branding.” Rather, it’s a personality brand…what sort of person are you? Romantic? Whimsical? Practical and to the point? Funny vs sensitive? Goofy vs. serious? Whatever your personality brand, that’s what has to come out and shine in your interactions with readers.

I won’t get into the “how’s” of creating that author brand (because I don’t want to pilfer too much from her presentation), but when determining it, think about the kinds of stories you write, your background/history/past jobs, your comfort level with sharing your personal life, and your personality on a day-to-day basis. For example, I come from a non-religious, somewhat snarky, very close-knit family. I have no problem sharing tidbits about myself, and I’m very good at making myself the butt of jokes (case in point: my maiden surname was “Dyke.” I learned pretty quick to have thick skin, laugh when they laughed, and take out the bite by being the first to laugh at my myself).

Whatever you do, be TRUTHFUL to yourself, because if you’re not, it’ll show through. Don’t promise one kind of person when you’re actually another. If you’re a little more shy and reserved, then don’t make your author brand big and brassy. Readers will figure it out real quick, and they won’t like being deceived.

Moving on…to author groups on Facebook. Caitlyn had several nuggets of wisdom to share here, based on her personal experience, as well as the advice of her virtual assistant (VA). I could go down a long and windy path sharing all the details that she presented, but instead, I’m going to give you some key takeaways:

  • First and foremost, make sure YOU control/are the admin for your Fan Group. If someone else is, they can shut you out…even if the group is about you. Only have a few readers? Who cares…start your group now before someone else does. Over time, you can give people admin access (FREX, Caitlyn lets her VA moderate posts in her group), but make sure YOU own it.
  • Create a vision/mission statement. Caitlyn’s is very simple and generic and it says NOTHING about liking her or her books. For example, here’s hers: “Caitlyn’s O’Leary’s Fan Group. It is a positive space where people gather to feel good about themselves and support one another.” This is stated clearly in the Description of her group. Note that is says nothing about her books or what she writes. It’s not a requirement for belonging.
    • Secondary to the “motto,” make sure you deliver on it. As the author/owner, you have to LEAD your group. This means participating…often (something I really struggle with…I’m not a consistent FB user)
  • Ways to keep your readers engaged
    • Daily Posts
    • Facebook Lives (I’m going to talk about this more later, as Caitlyn has done something really funny and suited to her author brand and her group motto)
    • Giveaways
    • Contests (example: “go to my author page, share the buy link of a great book you read recently, and you’ll be entered to win.” She will also do this for specific books, as well as other authors, too, not just herself)
    • Funny stories (see “Caitlyn Factor” below)
    • Reacting to people’s comments and posts (you don’t have to ANSWER every one, but you should try to LIKE every one. Caitlyn gets VERY personal in her comments to other members…she will share things like her struggle with depression, etc. She generally doesn’t do this in a main post, but in comments responding to others, she will)
    • DMs with members
  • Something unique…Caitlyn has something she calls “The Caitlyn Factor.” Part of her branding is that she’s a smart-ass who’s a little bit ditzy. So when she does a ditzy moment (for example, leaving all of her handouts in her hotel room), she’ll post that as another “Caitlyn Factor” and the readers eat it up!)

So…about Facebook Live. Caitlyn has turned this into a magnet for readers by making this fun (which, for her, suits her author branding). What she’s been doing is sitting down with her husband, who has never read her books, and having him read a sex scene she’s written…LIVE. She showed us a clip and it’s absolutely hilarious. She gets a few hundred people to participate in these events, and as more readers figure out what she’s doing (she’s only been doing them for a little while now), the participation goes up. Her advice for FB Live is to plan ahead…a little bit. No one wants to listen to you drone on, but they also don’t want to listen to you read something like you’re giving a speech. Have something good to talk about/discuss/show, and let your personality shine through.

Once you’ve created your author group, be sure to advertise it…in the back of your books, on your author page, in FB parties, in your newsletter. Basically, everywhere.

So! Those are the nuggets from her workshop. She also talked about creating ARC reader groups, but I’ll save that for another post.

Do you have anything to add? What has your experience been with author groups on FB? What things have you learned as you’ve established your author brand? (I’m still figuring mine out, to be honest.) Post in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Justine: Tips for Reader Groups on Facebook

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this, there are some great tips here. I have a page on facebook at present, to support my Freedom-Writing WordPress blog, but will eventually have a group page in my pen name, when I’m ready to publish, and will certainly bear in mind all the points you raise here.Great post!

  2. I’ve really enjoyed some fan mailing lists over the years. Sometimes the author participated, and sometimes she didn’t. (Usually, Bujold did show up once in while . . . and in Jenny Crusie’s case, it’s not a list or Facebook group, but a blog, and she’s got complete control.)

    I think if you’ve got a great group of people, and set down some guidelines for civility (and enforce them — I think Scalzi has something called The Kitten Hammer Of Enforcement), the group can often run on its own. Topic drift is a given; it’s about having a fun place. (And it’s super cool to meet some of the other members in person!)

    (Scalzi has the Loving Mallet of Correction, Google tells me.)

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