Do Book Posts in Facebook Groups Work as Marketing?

Facebook-GroupI am a heavy user of Facebook personally. I belong to a lot of writer groups, and several groups that allow book promotion (you post a spiffy description and link to your book — typically the Amazon link). Several authors I’ve encountered have expressed great disdain at these promo groups, saying they’re a waste of time and filled with other authors posting promos, not real readers. The critics also argue that posting on these sites just clutters your news feed, showing your friends your crappy, lazy marketing efforts.

However, my newsfeed has been cluttered by several authors doing this, and to me, it seemed crazy that people would continue to do something that is completely ineffective. So, being the evidence monger that I am, I decided to conduct an experiment to see if these Facebook marketing posts actually work. My conclusion — sorry Charlie, I’m gonna make you read to the end to find out. Or maybe I’ll tell you at some point before the end so you have to keep reading and can’t just skip to the bottom (I’m laughing maniacally right now).

So, to start my experiment, I identified 16 Facebook groups that allow you to post a promo for your book (this is super important; DO NOT post promos in groups that don’t allow it!). Some people post several posts to different groups all at the same time, and that really does clutter the newsfeed (you see 10 duplicate posts in a row from the person). Not wanting to do that, I decided to post to one group each day. That way I could determine if that particular post had an effect on sales. Then, I set up a spreadsheet and identified the group I posted in, the date I posted, the time I posted, the promo language I posted, whether the group was open or closed and then, finally the result.

A quick note about two of the data points I recorded. I included whether the group was open or closed because posts to closed groups do not show up in your newsfeed (unless your friend also belongs to that group). My thinking was that if I found any closed groups that got decent results, I would know I could post there more often without cluttering my newsfeed. Second, in the “result” column, I actually ended up recording two pieces of data, so I probably should’ve broken this into two data points. The two data points I recorded in the column were, the number of sales I had at the time I made the post followed by the number of sales that appeared within four hours of the post (on my KDP dashboard).

Click on the image to enlarge
Click on the image to enlarge

Now, I am not a scientist, so this experiment had too many variables for the results to be of much long-standing value to the community of writers. But, that wasn’t my goal. My goal was to try to see what things worked, if anything. So, I did vary the times of day I posted, to see if I noticed a trend that I got better results posting at 3 pm instead of 10 pm, or something like that. However, to be more scientific, you’d probably want to do this longer, keeping the time element consistent for several weeks, then changing it and posting at the new time for several weeks. I decided to do no advertising whatsoever for my books during this period (other than the Facebook posts). I did continue my regular blogging schedule (Indies Unlimited and my personal blog), but didn’t add any guest posts. I conducted my experiment between June 8 and July 17.

I posted to the following groups:

  1. ebooksnpromo
  3. Authors, Reviewers, & Book Lovers/
  11. Kindel Mojo
  13. BOOKS

What I found was that results were inconsistent. Some days I got sales after a post, other days I didn’t. Some days I got a sale following a post, but not a sale for the book I posted about. About midway through I hypothesized I was doing better by posting in larger groups (those with 10,000 or more members), but when I went back and looked at the data over the course of the whole experiment, that didn’t appear to hold true. At one point, it seemed that posting after 11 pm worked well (are those late night infomercial watchers book buyers, too?), so I tried doing posts mainly after 11 for a while and that didn’t seem to produce results.

I gave up on my Facebook posting in July because I was posting consistently each day and not seeing sales as a result. Obviously, it wasn’t arduous to copy and paste a post, but I was trying to finish a book and I just didn’t have time to record the data for something that wasn’t netting a lot of reward.

So, do the posts work? Sometimes. The problem is, I saw no consistency in it. However, to be fair, because this wasn’t a true scientific experiment, I can’t say these posts can’t be used effectively in marketing. There were tons of variables at play. It could just be that I have a sucky blurb, and people with better blurbs do better. Or maybe readers who belong to these groups prefer romance or Christian fiction or zombies (and the book I was posting about was none of those genres). Also, I did these posts while my book was priced $2.99. Anecdotally speaking, in the past I’ve posted when my book was discounted to 99 cents and seen what appeared to be a related sale or two. However, my mini experiment didn’t look at the impact a discount has on effectiveness of these posts (which may be crucial).

If you’re interested in the effectiveness of posting in these groups, I’d definitely suggest you run your own experiment and see if you find the posting worth your time or not.

Author: RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist turned novelist. By day, she writes thrillers with a touch of romance. By night, she practices the art of ninja mom. To learn more about her or her books, visit her website or her Author Central page.

39 thoughts on “Do Book Posts in Facebook Groups Work as Marketing?”

  1. Excellent research, RJ, although I think your efforts are akin to trying to nail down Jello. I’ve tried to correlate efforts (guest posts, author interviews, blog posts, etc.) to sales and could never decipher a definite relationship, either. As you say, too many variables. Still, interesting data, and I appreciate the list of sites. Thanks for your hard work.

    1. Melissa, I did this back in the summer and had planned to write a blog post, but the results were so iffy, it didn’t seem worth a post. However, I saw some people mentioning the merits of Facebook posting in an author group, and rethought it, figuring people might want to know even inconclusive results. Glad it was somewhat helpful. But, it’s very murky.

    1. Glad to help, in terms of alerting you to the groups. There are a fair number of them out there, and once you join a couple, Facebook will suggest similar groups for you to join, so it sort of feeds on itself.

  2. Thanks for posting your experiences/insights. My Facebook promo efforts, while not as extensive as yours, showed similar results – although yours were probably more successful. I came to the conclusion that most of these types of FB pages are frequented by authors posting promos, and had very few readers. Also, as an overall observation, most of my FB friends don’t like to see advertisements.

    1. Yeah, the newsfeed thing is a real problem. I think, if the posts didn’t appear in my newsfeed, I might do them more often just to see what happens. But, they really don’t look good in your newsfeed and friends think you’re all spammy. Not fun.

  3. Like you, I’ve posted in several different places, and seen inconsistent results, although I wasn’t as scientific about it as you. One of the places I’ve found that seems to draw more consistent attention, though, is Wattpad. While not really a book promotion site, it is a good place to introduce excerpts of your work to a broad audience. One of my books got over 5,000 reads on Wattpad, and subsequently showed a slight (very slight, but who can complain?) uptick in both e-Book and paperback sales. I’m beginning to think book marketing is like economics – part science, part voodoo, and a lot of luck.

    1. Charles, I’m glad you’ve had some good luck on Wattpad. I’m on Wattpad, but I haven’t had anything with so many reads.

      A lot of people like Wattpad, but I haven’t mastered it, in terms of marketing, yet.

  4. Thanks for this, RJ. I have done similar postings to many of the same FB groups, but only with free books. As you say, pasting to a number of groups is easy, and I, too, was concerned about the clutter in the news feeds. I posted at various times over two days. Results vary; some poor, others quite good for free adverts. I believe the blitz has resulted in sales and KU downloads of my other book.

    1. Thanks for the info about the free books. I suspected price had an impact. I do believe the groups do have some real readers, too, not just authors. But, I think the real readers are sort of like readers who subscribe to those ebook deal sites: very gung-ho at first, poring over entries for books they think they might like (especially freebies), but then they taper off when they realize they have too many books on their plate, now.

  5. I know authors who swear by these tactics citing them as the root of their success and others who’ll tell you it’s nothing but spurious non-causal correlation (they use stronger language, but I’m a nerdy YA author so I cleaned it up a bit). My own forays have been somewhere in the middle, but I think you’re on to something about price being critical. I rarely see evidence of sales unless my publisher is offering a $1.98 sale (my regular price is $4.88). Indirect sales pitches, typically linking to reviews or related posts on my blog, which are free and allow me to make at least a loose correlation to clicks, do seem to have an impact. As I mentioned I am a YA author, so most FB groups are indirect for me, i.e., I’m reaching the buyer (parent), but not the reader. Thanks for sharing your efforts.

    1. It’s interesting that your YA pitches to parents rather than the kids directly. That’s a tougher sell to have to go through two layers.

      I think you’re right about price, though. People like deals, so I think people who seek out Facebook posts for books, they’re looking for something that both looks like it would be a good read and is a cheap price.

      1. RJ, you’re right it’s an interesting conundrum. My readers are a mix of YA and cross-over adults who read YA. The later are much easier to reach directly, the former present a few problems. For starters, many of them do not make the purchases themselves, their parents do. One of the first rules of sales is to know who makes the purchasing decision and who pays for it. It’s almost always better if they’re the same person – one audience, one message, one sale. The other kicker is that not everyone wants their children interacting through the web with a middle aged man.

  6. Very interesting, RJ, thank you. I am one of those writers that thinks that posting to these groups is a complete waste of time. I’m surprised and a little happy that you got results as good as you did. I’ve always thought that those groups were filled with authors pitching their goods and not very many readers. It’s good to hear that occasionally, you can find a reader as well. For me, I pour my FB energy into building a relationship with my FB fans. I know that the conventional wisdom is that you can’t reach many people, and FB will be killing what little you could in January, yada, yada, yada, but I haven’t found that to be the case. I reach anywhere between one third and one half of my 2,000 fans with almost every post. That feels like the most effective place for me to spend my time.

  7. Thank-you so much RJ– how commendable of a project, and how thorough you have been. I have indeed run my own experiment– and …let’s see…I suppose the word higgedly piggedly would come to mind. I have posted in myriad FB groups for everyone of my 5 novels for 99 cent promos- I REFUSE TO DO FREE PROMOS– and I also have a writer’s page and have used FB “boost this post,” and I would say the results are fairly dismal, though the price is right. Using the 80/20 rule– FB is definitely NOT the place where you want to be spending a great chunk of your marketing time. However, I have also run GR giveaways— far more expensive– same dismal results. I am still actively searching & researching for that dynamic Indie marketing plan….

    1. Leigh,

      I think Shawn made a good point earlier: it’s hard to get a lot of bang if you don’t have reader engagement. Now, how do you get those readers? That’s a tougher question. But, any hit and run marketing for free is probably going to give scattershot results. The question is whether people want to spend the five minutes a day doing something like this for results that are iffy, at best.

  8. Hi RJ,

    I really enjoyed reading about your experiment on Facebook. I tried Facebook ads many years ago and it was about as exciting as watching paint dry. Your approach was far more effective. I think the comments of Shawn (above) are highly relevant, using FB to build a relationship with fans.

    As much as readers are wanting a great story that is a match with their reading interests, I think they are also wanting a deeper connection with the author. An artist selling paintings or sculptures will have open houses where the buyers can interact with him/her. The days where authors can be recluses tucked away from the outside world are over. Still I would estimate that nearly 3/4 of all authors make it nearly impossible for a reader to contact them. A good starting point for building relationships with readers would include making it easy for a reader to connect with an author.

    1. Shawn,

      I think using your Facebook page to engage with readers is probably going to net you the best results, but that’s more time consuming than a couple of hit and run posts. That’s probably why the hit and run posts have varying results.

        1. No doubt, RJ. I probably spend a minimum of 30 minutes per day with my FB group, most days it’s more like an hour. The good thing is, I enjoy it. I learn so much about my readers – who they are, what they like, how they read – that it is more than worth the investment. In return, my FB readers have been very supportive, liking/sharing important posts and helpfully buying new books the first few days of release, etc. But, that definitely didn’t happen overnight. I committed to post to my FB page every day in February of 2013. It took about six months of consistent posting before I started seeing results I was happy with.

    2. Marc,

      Great thoughts. I think readers do want to connect with authors. Once you get readers to your fan page, I think that’s your opportunity to connect with them. I think authors have an issue with getting people to their page in the first place. But, that’s another story…

  9. Thank you, RJ. It is nice to have company in my wondering. Since you have your data sheet already set up, perhaps you will consider doing another survey sometime when you have a 99-cent promo going? By then I will have added your helpful list to mine. 🙂 Anyway, I appreciate your thoughtful report.

    1. Gloria,

      I have a book on 99 cent right now, but I haven’t done any Facebook advertising for it. I guess I should try, but I’ve been super busy with the holiday. If I do decide to make some posts, I’ll write a follow up.

  10. I write niche history, so it’s an uphill battle for exposure and sales. I’ve primarily used FB and Twitter, essentially concluding that FB is not worth the investment in time. I find Twitter is worth the aggregate numbers attracted to look at my website and download the free first volume and samples of the others in the series. Hard as I try, I cannot discern what post content is more attractive than the other. I write for pleasure and never expected much profit. My sales pay for my website and other expenses. I find my big “challenge” is selling ebooks to a generation that is still looking for a print version as validation, and a similar reviewer bias.

    1. Brian,

      You can create a print book using CreateSpace at no extra cost (generally, the only cost is a paper proof copy, but you can do the ebook proof if you truly want to spend no cash). So, that should appease your readers seeking print.

      I think visibility is the hardest issue for most indies. Facebook posts are probably not going to increase your visibility for a niche. But, if you can find some Facebook or Goodreads groups built on interaction, not just quick hit-and-run posts, you may be able to get some more visibility.

      1. That’s all true, RJ. What I meant was that traditional publishing houses, in publishing a book, lend a layer of legitimacy to the book for browsers and purchasers.

        The other piece most of us do not have at our disposal is promotional depth. Most indie authors have day jobs, and few have the connections for a coordinated publicity campaign. Locally, bookstores are not interested in promoting an ebook, even one in their on-line inventory. I understand their WIIFM view. Why host an event for a market they don’t directly touch? And, who would attend an ebook signing? Perhaps some self-promoted electronic “meet the author” event would work, but that’s beyond my technical ken..

        Love to hear other ideas, and especially learn from the experiences of others.

  11. My book is historical as well and I am trying to market to the African American market. I’ve reached out to Book Clubs as well with poor results. I will try some of the sites you outline and try my luck.
    Appreciate the article !!

    1. Good luck, Sheryl. I hope you have some luck with getting some more visibility for your title. I think when you write in smaller niches, you have a smaller built-in audience. But, you also have an opportunity because that audience probably hangs together online. If you just find that spot where they’re hanging and can connect with them, you’re golden.

  12. Thank you, R.J. that is a great post. I once saw a survey that said the best times to post on FB is between one and four p.m. After four p.m. authors who have day jobs start flooding FB with promos. I seldom post anything other than
    FREE or 99¢ deals. The posts I seem to have to most luck with are those that lead with a quote from a reviewer. Tho I don’t think I see more than 20 books sold from FB in any given promo. I do buy books I find on FB and on Twitter, too. Sometimes, I skip posting on FB all together. It is a time suck. Most are top heavy with authors. However, when a group of us get together to run a Rafflecopter on FB, we get a lot of traffic. For me FB is another site for exposure and networking. One FB site I like and that does move books is Ebook Korner Kafe.
    Best to you and yours during the holidays,
    Jackie Weger

    1. Jackie,

      I’ve heard all sorts of variations for what times are best to post on Facebook, but I’m not sure how well they hold up over time, and as people’s needs change.

      You make a good point about Rafflecopter. Giveaways can be very helpful in driving traffic to your Facebook page or website.

  13. I love the phrase, “Your crappy, lazy marketing efforts.” Here’s what I think: No one wants to see the same posts repeatedly–posts that clutter up your followers’ newsfeeds. This applies to groups you post in: don’t overdo it! I enjoy interesting and informative articles, which I readily share. Or exciting news from other authors. When I do share, it’s mostly to my FB author page. To be honest, I seldom post on group pages.

    1. Well, I think with Facebook can be helpful, depending on what you want from it. As a social network, it still works. There are great author discussion groups where authors can get practical advice, feedback and knowledge. But, for direct marketing, as in, please buy this book, it’s going to be hit or miss, and probably more miss than hit.

  14. Haha, I didn’t know you were so evil, RJ. Maniacal laughing, I want to hear that.

    I have joined some FB groups but I haven’t posted anything. I am spending less and less time there these days but when I do pop on, I don’t mind book promotions on my feed. It doesn’t worry me at all and if a cover jumps out at me, I’ll stop and have a closer look. Mind you, I like the funny signstoo.

    1. I think for more organic growth, you’ve got to get the funny pics and all the things people actually share on their walls. I think you may be more tolerant of the ads than others. Though, I must admit, I’d prefer to see everything in my newsfeed, but Facebook constantly changes my view to top stories and chooses not to show posts. I’d like to be the judge of which of my friends I choose to filter, not Facebook, but (of course) that’s another story.

      1. Yeah, FB’s naughty like that. I’d like to see more of my family in my news. I’m always missing stuff from them and they go, I put it on FB. I think people assume you’ll see their stuff. I’m like, Ugh, just ring me or send the pic by email. I hate going to their pages, feels a bit voyeur-ish to me.

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