Facebook is, by far, the largest social media site. As authors, many of us do nearly everything through Facebook: book releases, daily promo and fan groups are some of the common examples. Unfortunately, we are finding ourselves more and more at the whim of the site. Authors who are too “Facebook-centric” can find this to be catastrophic if problems arise.
A few examples of these problems:
Pen name restrictions. Facebook insists that we use our real names, frequently “cracking down” on those of us who choose to make use of legitimate pen names to promote our work and protect our privacy. Authors who come under fire must scramble to provide documentation to verify their name. In extreme cases, accounts are disabled or deleted. This can be disastrous to an author’s writing career–especially if the account in question is the main means of communication with a fan base.
Facebook jail/censorship. If material is deemed “offensive,” Facebook will often delete the content and restrict the user from activities such as posting, messaging or even managing pages and groups. This also cripples the author’s ability to communicate with a fan base, especially if it occurs at a critical time such as a book release. In some cases, malicious “mean girl” bully groups report posts of “rival” authors, in an effort to deliberately cause problems. The “ban” is often automated, and there is little or no recourse to appeal “false positives.”
Deliberate restrictions on content visibility. If an author makes a Facebook post aimed at 1000 followers, it will be shown only to a fraction of these readers. In order to be fully seen, Facebook expects the author to pay for a “boost”–in some cases, after treating us like errant children as outlined above. Such a policy is ridiculous, and isn’t seen in any other popular venue–if you sent a newsletter out to 1000 subscribers, how would you feel if Mailchimp informed you that “the newsletter will only be seen by 50 of your subscribers, unless you pay”?
“High school” mentality. For whatever reason, Facebook seems to foster an environment of bullying, “mean girls” and nastiness in some corners of the community. This is seldom seen on other platforms, probably because they are more transparent. Rarely does a day go by without logging on to Facebook only to witness some sort of “drama” in the community. This also saturates the newsfeed and detracts from legitimate book conversation.
Security concerns. Recent news articles highlighted problems with information being breached and given to third parties. Many Facebook users offered the opinion that “we are not Facebook’s customer, we are their product.” These articles will not be rehashed in detail here, but should be noted.
It’s important to focus on not being as “Facebook-centric.” Instead, we recommend a focus on being “me-centric.” A few examples:
Brand focus. Every author should have his or her own domain. They are very inexpensive and simple to set up. The end result is an email address such as email@example.com which demonstrates that you’re serious about your brand. A website is also very inexpensive, and can be configured to do just about anything, including blogging. If your readers are visiting you at yourauthorname.com, it’s not going to impact you as severely if facebook.com decides that your pen name isn’t “real” enough and closes your account. Note: the Erotic Authors Guild offers free webhosting as a membership benefit.
Don’t neglect other avenues to keep in touch with your reader base. Newsletter. Blog. Real-life meet and greets. Also, think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to host an “event” on Twitter.
If you aren’t ready to “cut the cord” with Facebook, there are some steps you should nevertheless take to protect yourself:
Page/group management. Make sure to add an alternate ID and/or a few trusted friends or family members, as admins in your pages/groups. If Facebook locks your profile and you are the only page admin, you will lose the ability to interact on your page. If you have alternate access, you can still manage your page, and can even be added to groups to post as that page.
Back up your profile. This can be done from Settings–General from your desktop. You’ll find a link to download a copy of your data: friend lists, posts, photos. Remember, if Facebook decides to close your account, all of this will be lost.
Save your money. Rather than spending money to “boost” postings which may or may not improve your book sales, investigate other options. ExciteSteam/ExciteSpice, BookDoggy and BookBub are examples of newsletter-driven promotion, and there are several others. The Guild recommends doing your homework by observing other books on the lists, and how well they do after a promotion.
In closing, social media has become an integral part of what we do as authors. However, this does not mean we should be expected to compromise who we are, or allow ourselves to be “pushed around.” There are other avenues available to us, and we should be wary of giving Facebook too much power over our livelihood.
Dylan Cross (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an author and a principal of the Erotic Authors Guild.