Regular readers of my blog know that I have been very honest about my publishing journey, starting with my very first post The First Cut is the Deepest. Part of that journey has required marketing, something I had virtually no experience with before embarking on this venture. If I’m being perfectly honest, it’s my least favorite part of being an author, but I recognize that it’s a necessary part, and I’ve tried any number of things from guesting on other blogs to Goodreads and other giveaways.
What I’ve discovered is this: Regardless of the platform, there’s the good and the not so good. [An example of the not-so-good would be the time the guy who won a paperback copy of The Hanged Man’s Noose immediately turned around and tried to sell it on Amazon as a signed author copy.] But this post is about my Facebook Release Day Party, held August 21st on my Facebook Author page. I’d never hosted a FB party before, but my publisher, Imajin Books, was keen on the idea, and so I referred a lot to this post by author Kristina Stanley when I was setting it up. Here’s what I learned:
The first step was to pick a date and time. I decided on the actual release date of Skeletons — August 21 — and the time as 3 to 5 p.m. EST. You can’t please everybody in every time zone, so I went with what worked best for me.
The next step was to contact other authors via my various Yahoo groups (Sisters in Crime – Guppy Branch, Short Mystery Fiction Society, other Imajin authors, as an example) to see if any of them would be willing to donate an eBook copy of one of their titles. I suggested eBooks, as this keeps the cost affordable for authors. This was a definite “Good.” I had several authors offer (so many, in fact, that I had to turn some down). In the end, I had 20 authors, plus me, donating eBooks as prizes. You can see the list of authors here.
That “Good” turned out to be too much of a good thing. There was no way I could reasonably expect to giveaway 20 books individually in two hours, while trying to help promote those authors at the same time. I created an Excel spreadsheet with the authors’ names, email address, book title, genre, and decided to “bundle” the books. For example, the “Colorful” bundle included Blood Red Homicide by Gail Baugniet and The Blue Diamond by Lynn Franklin. A “Short Story” bundle included collections by Terrie Farley Moran, B.K. Stevens, and Conda V. Douglas.
Once I’d done that, I added a blurb about each book to the spreadsheet, as well as a trivia question and answer (these I got from Amazon). The idea was that folks would answer the trivia question for a chance to win — but they’d also visit the author’s book page. I also created a folder of book covers.
At this point I was feeling pretty smug. My spreadsheet had all the information I needed and my folder had all the book covers. I then proceeded to create posts on Amazon, scheduled for December 25th (so as not to inadvertently post before the party). Each post included information on the bundle and the book covers, with the authors tagged in the post. Here comes the bad. The Events page does not allow you to use pre-prepared posts. Unfortunately, I figured that out AFTER I’d created all of them! I was, however, able to post a detailed description of the event, which I did about two weeks in advance.
The next pre-event step included getting a banner made to use on Facebook and on my website as a promo. I tried to do this on Canva, but couldn’t seem to come up with anything professional. I hired a graphic artist on Fiverr, and was very pleased with the result ($5US).
The final step was to send out invitations. Facebook limits invitations to friends, and caps at 500. I was told to send out about a week in advance, and that timing seemed to work. I also posted the banner on Facebook in various groups, and on Twitter.
My plan was to post one bundle every 10-15 minutes, followed by individual posts about each book. I used my previously scheduled posts and copy and pasted them (I still had to add the photos, but at least I didn’t have to rewrite them). If I was doing this again, I’d make a word document with each post. Simpler to copy and paste!
Things went well for the first 30 minutes or so, but quickly went south. It was hard to keep up with posting, commenting, selecting winners — and I’d neglected to pin my “Welcome” thread to the top and so completely forgot about it. Somewhere along the way, my earlier party posts stopped showing up. To this day, they remain frozen in cyberspace, completely inaccessible. That is a definite “Bad” and to my mind, a real failing in the Facebook party platform.
The purpose of a Facebook Release Day Party is, of course, promotion. Did it work? Probably. By the end of the day, Skeletons in the Attic was #2 as a Hot New Release: Psychics (ahead of Stephen King and next to Heather Graham) and #7 as a Hot New Release in International Mystery and Crime.How much these results had to do with the party and how much had to do with my pre-sale promotion and release day blogs is difficult to measure. I do know that of the 249 people I invited, only 39 people attended, and several of those were the authors who donated books.
Would I do it again? I don’t know. Definitely not without a helper, someone to post while I replied to comments. I’ve also been told by other authors that the first Facebook party you host gets the most attendees; some authors I know have had as few as 14 guests, and 20 seems to be about the average. There’s also the amount of prep work involved, which as you can see from the beginning of this post, was considerable. And the whole “frozen in cyberspace” snafu. So I’m leaning strongly towards “no” and will probably look for an alternate Release Day strategy for my next book. That won’t be until sometime in 2017. Who knows what the next hot thing will be by then? I suppose only time will tell.