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Facebook, My Platform of Choice

February 8, 2010

Social networking is the controversial topic this week. Why controversial? Well, some people think it’s a great idea for business and others think it’s a colossal waste of time. I believe that almost everything connected to the Internet is an invaluable tool, one in which learning to use it properly could set you apart from your competition in achieving success.

When I launched my business page on Facebook last spring, I did so with no preconceived notions of what was considered right or wrong. I filed my applications with Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime a few weeks earlier using my pen name. I’d been exchanging crits with strangers for a few weeks and posting my work on for over a month.

I’d received a ton of mixed responses to my present-tense style and thought, “Why not ask readers what they think?” After all, how else would I know if what I was writing would appeal to anyone? It was the best thing I ever did, and yet a decision most fellow writers told me was wrong and a mistake —except for a rare few who listened, watched and tried it.

They said publishers wouldn’t care how many “friends” I had. Wouldn’t care how popular I was, and wouldn’t like that I posted so much of my work online for public consumption. They said Facebook, Twitter, blogging—all of it was a waste of valuable writing time.

I ask you this: how many times have you read a book jacket to be disappointed that the story didn’t measure up? Or read an excerpt only to realize the author chose the best possible passage to post and the rest of the book didn’t appeal to you?

It’s happened to me and I’ve spent more money on books I’ve never finished than I care to admit. And you can bet your sweet-patootie I didn’t spend money on that author again. Why not post a good chunk of your story and see what readers thought? If they liked the fifteen to twenty percent you posted for free, why wouldn’t they care for the rest of your work? If you give part away, they’ll gladly buy the rest when it becomes available.

Think about it like buying a car. Wouldn’t you take it for a test drive? Or would you read the sticker only and say, “sure, I’ll buy that! Where do I sign?” Think of your sample chapters as that test drive.

I chose Facebook because I could put an age restriction on my page to block out the underage kiddies, post my chapters on the Notes tab where comments could go underneath for feedback, and make connections with REAL people who will become my reader base once I can get that magical and ever-elusive publishing contract.

A business page on Facebook is not like in Field of Dreams: “build it and they will come.” You need to work it, big time. I gave myself a budget for a set period of time—some days it was $2 and some days it was $10—and advertised on Facebook. Think about what the average author spends on hiring someone to build a web site ($350 to $1,500), professionally edit their work ($5-$10 per page), make a book trailer ($250 to $2,000), and then promote themselves ($100 to $1,000) prior to their book being released. Did you think the publisher pays for that stuff? Maybe they will if you’re a proven author but not if you’re a newbie like me.

I’ve been in sales for over fifteen years, and most of those early years I was scraping to get by. The old adage is very true: “to make money you must spend money.”

I spent money from my two-year budget on Facebook ads to attract readers to my page, but they stayed and became fans because they like my work. Not because they’re my friends. I’ve met some incredible people online, a few terrific dreamers like myself, and received invaluable advice that helped in shaping my story. I have always known the direction the book would go, but my readers helped me make it just that much better, so that it would appeal to them even more.

Will it help to get my book published? Time will tell. Tune in here to see.


13 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2010 9:35 am

    I can’t agree with you more this week, C.J. I had no idea you spent money to advertise on Facebook though. Will need to hit you up for more advice on that. I personally hate Facebook, finding it to be an extremely user unfriendly and time consuming website. So it’s really good to see your success in using it.

    • February 8, 2010 9:43 am

      Like any tool, once mastered you wonder how you survived without it. I’d be happy to go over ideas with you via email. It took me weeks to learn everything and I’d rather spare you the time!

  2. Matt Fraser permalink
    February 8, 2010 10:12 am

    It worked. It was one of your FB ads, about a year ago?, that first led me to your page, but it was your writing that kept me coming back a second, third time, and then a great deal of curiosity about the unusual process you were following. I spoke with writer friends about what you were doing, and yes, they thought you were making a big mistake. I wasn’t sure, myself, so I was — and remain — fascinated to see how the story will play out, and by ‘story’ I don’t mean the plot of your novels. For a while during the hoopla at Dorchester it seemed like maybe it was a mistake after all, but that died down, you placed extremely well, and prospects still look good. It’s my opinion now that you’ve played this brilliantly. I am not normally a fan of paranormal fiction, but I am a fan of C.J. Ellisson!

    • February 8, 2010 10:57 am

      Thanks Matt! And the hoopla you’re referring to was more my own fault in offering a limited number of copies of my manuscript up to followers to buy in an “public” forum, rather than the fact I put a partial of my work out there for viewing. Live and learn! Next time I’ll make the offer to the private beta readers only (see, this old dog can still learn a few tricks) 😉

      Appreciate all the support! I’m eager to see how it will all play out as well. You just never know, eh?

  3. Helena Gardella permalink
    February 8, 2010 12:18 pm

    I agree with Matt that “it worked.” Like Matt it was one of your ads that led me to your novel, and your writing that kept me there. I don’t know anything about the writing end of it, but it seems to have worked for you as far as getting the fan base and opinions you wanted. Now you have this great blog and others, and another novel in the works. I for one am grateful that you took the leap. I think your example helps other would be authors.

    • February 8, 2010 2:50 pm

      Thanks so much, Helena! Like I said – the best decision I ever made! Glad to have met you and I’m thrilled you’ve enjoyed Vampire Vacation. Please, tell everyone you know!! 😉 I need all the help I can get.

  4. Jeanette Juan permalink
    February 10, 2010 2:11 pm

    Happy to hear that you’re taking such fabulous advantage of Facebook. I find it useful in some aspects of life but I find it ridiculous how some people can spend so many wasted hours just looking through other peoples’ profiles or playing the games. I also think you set a good example of HOW to use facebook properly. =)

    • February 10, 2010 5:21 pm

      Thanks Jeanette! I think it sucks a lot of people in. I spent many many hours I’ll never get back trying to learn how to navigate on there usefully. Now, I’ve got a system that works with my writing schedule. But for a while there I ranked right up there with the people who waste time on it!

  5. maered permalink
    February 10, 2010 5:14 pm

    I think when used in responsible and sensible manner facebook, and other social networks are an advantage for any writer. Like it has been for you. I think it’s great you’ve been so proactive in your writing.

    It just boggles my mind, though, at how people can be so stupid when using it. Like mocking your boss/company and getting yourself fired. Or putting confidential info on facebook.

    • February 10, 2010 5:26 pm

      Too true! I never understood how someone could “friend” their boss and then not block out private photos or say stupid stuff about their job on there. Especially in a recession! Be glad you have a paycheck, you fool, when so many people don’t.

      The disadvantage to a business page is you have no privacy settings (except for an age restriction, which I happily put into place on mine), so you have to be very careful what you post and what you say. I’ve made some mistakes in the past and I’m grateful the Facebook creators included a “remove” option when you’re the admin of your own page!


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