Facebook as Publicity

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Every once in awhile I come across a new idea or a permutation of an idea that reminds me that the ways authors can promote their books today have few boundaries. As a matter of fact, while social media can feel like a bane, it’s also a blessing in that the sky’s the limit. Today I want to tell you about a creative way a group of writers is using Facebook to make readers aware of the authors’ books. My hope is that you can use this idea to spin off in a new direction of your own.

I interviewed Titanic novelist Janice Thompson about the Facebook page, Queen of the Waves to gain some insight into how her creative publicity idea is working.

How did you come up with the idea?

Janice: I had just started writing QUEEN OF THE WAVES (a Titanic-themed novel for Summerside Press) when I got a note from a friend, asking if I would be interested in taking a Titanic anniversary cruise. My response? “No thanks! The only Titanic cruise I would consider taking would have to be a virtual one.” As I typed the words, the idea hit: Set up a Facebook group, title it Queen of the Waves, and invite people on a “virtual” Titanic cruise. Use the name of my POV character (Tessa Bowen) as cruise director.

Within ten minutes I’d established the group and posted to my primary Facebook page extending the invitation. By the end of the day more than seventy people had asked to join the cruise. We are now approaching 200! Most of my guests have chosen the names of real people who traveled on the Titanic. They’ve posted photos, comments, and much more. We’re utilizing networking sites like Pinterest to collect photos. What fun! And speaking of photos, you should see the dresses, shoes and hats my passengers plan to wear aboard the ship. We’re having a delightful time shopping for our time aboard the great luxury liner.

Over the past few days I’ve given passengers the background of the ship (all in first person, of course, from Tessa’s point of view). I’ve shared information about the staterooms, and I’ve tantalized folks with menus from the various dining rooms. I’ve also provided activities for the children. (Side note: I’ve opened this group to homeschool families, and many children have already boarded. With that in mind, I put together a full document of activities that families can use to teach their kiddos about the Titanic. I encouraged other participants to add to the activities list, so the document has grown a lot!)

We will officially “set sail” on the morning of April 10, the day the real Titanic cast off. I plan to post three times a day (at the bugle’s call), at which point I will usher the guests to their meals and offer a host of fun activities for the day. We will play together, eat together, and (*deep sigh*) ultimately sink together. Well, not all of us will sink, of course, but we will face the iceberg together.

Who are the other Titanic novelists involved?

Janice: I’m thrilled to include the following Titanic authors:

Cathy Gohlke (Promise Me This)

Tricia Goyer (By the Light of the Silvery Moon)

Kathy Kovach/Paula Moldenhauer (Titanic: Legacy of Betrayal)

Other Titanic authors are welcome to join us. For that matter, non-Titanic authors are welcome to join us. There’s much to be learned about American/British history inside this group.

How are you getting word out about the FB page?

Janice: I’m doing all of the usual things: twittering, posting to my main Facebook page, asking for help from my tribe (my dream team/readers). Beyond all of that, several key things have happened to draw attention to the group. My agent (Chip MacGregor) offered to run a promotional piece on his blog. That stirred up a lot of activity. Next, several of the passengers on the cruise spread the word to their friends. Before long, men, women and children joined in. Friend and fellow author Randy Ingermanson blogged about the event. I’m also excited to announce that Tricia Goyer has invited me to be her guest on the evening of April 10 as she hosts a Facebook party and live chat about the Titanic.

What is the plan to get readers from the page to actually buy the books?

Janice: Queen of the Waves won’t release until spring 2013, so I’ve spent most of my time promoting the other ladies’ books. And I’ll be honest—we’re not really promoting the books. We’re just having fun aboard the Titanic. The “experience” is the vehicle for sales. People are purchasing books because they’re enjoying themselves as they take on the various role(s) from history. And never underestimate the power of an excited reader. The 200 folks aboard this cruise are telling others, who are telling others. . .

Thanks, Janice, for giving us a peek behind the scenes. I’m on the virtual cruise and am feeling wistful as I read about life on board and about the people fated to face the iceberg.

Janice came up with a fun idea, didn’t she? I hope you check out Queen of the Waves to get a sense of the community that’s come together on this virtual cruise. I find it fascinating that Janice’s idea captured other people’s imaginations, and we’ve become her marketing mavens, telling others about this cool concept. To me that’s the magic of this Facebook group.

What are the elements that you see that make this a potentially great marketing idea? What pitfalls do you see? What out-of-the-box marketing idea have you tried or heard about that caught your attention?

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42 Responses

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  1. Jill Kemerer says:

    One word kept repeating in my head as I read this–“GENIUS!”

    I love how writers are using their creative core to come up with innovative ways to connect with readers. As Janice pointed out, you don’t have to hard-sell your book when people are engaged. They’ll automatically purchase it.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Such a great idea! Definitely the sky is the limit. I think it’s fresh ideas like this that really break out on social media as well–people like things that offer them a new experience 🙂


  3. Joanne Sher says:

    So incredibly, INCREDIBLY creative. LOVE IT!

  4. This is such a great idea! I joined today, and I’ve enjoy looking back at the group photos and comments. I love this time period and I’m researching writing a book set in England just a few years before this, so it’s a great way for me to learn more about the time period.

    I’ve read Cathy Gohlke’s book, Promise Me This, and it was fantastic! I will look forward to reading Janice’s book, Queen of the Waves later this year.

  5. Christina says:

    Great marketing tool! Heading over to check it out now.

  6. I first heard about this when Janice posted a note to the ACFW loop. I thought it was an incredibly clever and out-of-the-box idea, not to mention FUN for history fans.

    I’ve been having a wonderful time preparing for the cruise with Janice and the rest of the crew/passengers. I loved seeing all of the virtual gowns, hats and swimsuits. Now that she’s posting information about Titanic history, it’s even better.

    I signed on as a crew member. You can watch for me–Maude Slocombe, attendant in the Titanic’s opulent Turkish Baths. Can’t wait to set sail!

  7. Cathy Gohlke says:

    I signed aboard Janice’s virtual cruise as Lucy Violet Snape, a real stewardess (second class) aboard the Titanic. Because Lucy is also a minor character in my book, “Promise Me This,”–and the heartthrob of the wonderful Owen Allen– it’s been especially fun to “get inside her head” in preparation for the maiden voyage.

    It’s made me keenly aware that each man, woman and child boarding the ship came with their own story, their own set of relationships. Little did they know that all their world would soon change forever. That contemplation has given me many life lessons to ponder.

    Janice has done an outstanding job of bringing details to life, and her passengers have caught the fever!

    • Janet Grant says:

      Cathy, good point that Janice’s virtual cruise reminds us that real people with real life stories were on board. It’s easy for us to recall the Titanic film and to think of it in a fairytale way.
      But the cruise makes it much more real for each of us.

  8. Dale Rogers says:

    Brilliant idea!

  9. That’s an idea that won’t sink no matter what obstacles are encountered. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I love this idea. As long as they can keep the group going, it should build up a nice following before the release of Queen of the Waves, and in the meantime, it’s plain old fun.

    Thanks for sharing this, Janet.

    • Janet Grant says:

      I think this cruise is a great way to let potential readers know about the books that currently are available, but I do wonder if Janice can keep the momentum up until spring 2013 when her Titanic novel releases. I hope she gets the benefit of all the work she’s done.

  11. Wendy Lawton says:

    I love this idea. Experiencing history as a participant.

    I signed on the cruise as one of my all time heroes, John Harper. If faced with the challenge he faced, I pray I’d make the same sacrifice he made.

  12. Janice mentioned homeschool families. This is a market that can be rife for wonderful marketing ideas, especially for authors who write historicals. I have friends who use historical novels as a way to get their homeschool kid interested in history. I’d love to see a group of historical novelists develop a website with curriculum ideas relevant to the books they write. It wouldn’t have to be just for novels targeted to a school age child. But if you get mom to come to the site for great creative curriculum ideas, she sees a book that will help HER get interested in a timeperiod, she buys it, then everyone is happy. Author gets a sale, child learns with fun and mom gets a good read. Too bad I don’t write Historicals :o(.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Connie, this is a great idea. And then, if the novelists were assigned to write an article about using fiction to teach history in the homeschool newsletters, that could drive traffic to the website. Thanks for your creative thought.

  13. Janice says:

    Thanks for all of the fun comments, folks! And guess what? I found out this morning that Queen of the Waves is releasing in October, not spring of 2013, so I won’t have to keep the momentum going as long as I thought. Good news, all the way around! I hope to speak to schools in the early fall, so that should help.

  14. What a creative idea, Janice! My brain is already cranking out ways I can spinoff this idea for a social media campaign I’m managing on behalf of a contemporary Christian fiction novelist.

    Janet, thanks so much for sharing this.

  15. Marji Laine says:

    I agree with Jill Kemerer – this is sheer brilliance!

  16. Cindy R. Wilson says:

    Wow, this is a great and creative idea. I like how, even though parts of it will be extra work, it’s still fun. What a great way to get readers interested in a story and an author!

  17. Wow! What an creative idea. In all honesty, I haven’t had much success on Facebook. I tweet and blog regularly and have watched those networks grow, but I have felt that FB was a cold stone wall. Many of my friends and family aren’t on FB and don’t want to be, so growing friends has been difficult. I hadn’t considered forming a group. I’ll have to give that a try.

    Thank you, Janet, for this post.
    I hope you had a good Easter.

  18. Andrea Jenkins & daughter, Megan says:

    We jumped for joy when Janice let us know about her Titanic themed romance novel, as well as the virtual Titanic cruise, Queen of the Waves. My daughter and I love Janice’s book and she is such a fan-friendly author. She writes regularly to my 13 yr. old daughter and has encouraged her to help her gather Titanic facts, as well as give input on her Titanic “work in progress” novel. What girl wouldn’t be excited “about helping out an author? I also love the fact that all of Janice’s books can be passed on to my Megan to read because they are very well-written, “clean” novels with a light romance theme and humor. We both love ALL of Janice’s books. We are so excited about being a part of this virtual Titanic crew. We are second class passengers who are using my recently deceased husband’s life insurance money to take a cruise of a lifetime and begin a new life. Pretty exciting, uh? —Andrea Jenkins <3

  19. Sue Harrison says:

    I absolutely love this idea! Wow! And it sounds like so much fun, too. WooHoo for Janice and “Queen of the Waves”!

  20. This has been so much fun. I’m grateful to Janice for the opportunity to participate with her, and I’ve especially enjoyed all the pictures posted to this group that kept the fashions and places alive in my mind.

    Researching for Titanic: Legacy of Betrayal was a deep journey. I got caught up in the lives of the “real” people I learned about even as I entered deeply into my fictional character’s pain. Whew! It’s a good thing my co-author Kathy Kovach planned so much comic relief in our story, because the truth of Titanic is tragic. It really encouraged me to find some beautiful stories of faith as I dug deeper and to remember that our LORD was there, even in the midst of such loss.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Paula, thanks for the perspective of one of the Titanic novelists. The tragedy is outweighed by the triumph of faith, and that’s important to keep in mind as we readers contemplate the ship’s passengers’ fate. I heard on a news report today that the Titanic’s sinking devastated people the same way 9/11 affected our national psyche. That helps us to understand the power of such events.

  21. Susan Trahan says:

    Hi, this is Lizzy Doyle and I am waiting at Queenstown to board Titanic with my cousin. It is not to late to join us. My real name is Susan Doyle and it has been a journey researching Titanic. I had an Aunt by the name of Elizabeth Doyle so it was an easy choice on the part I was going to play. I couldn’t find much about her on the Titantic website but I kept googling away until I did get some insight on her. So if you want to know what happens to Lizzy…..you will have to jump on board!

  22. I jumped onboard because I love doing interviews (I have newspaper ink in my veins), and I saw how much fun it would be interviewing TITANIC passengers. However, when I was setting up a format to “cover the voyage” for the NEW YORK WORLD (circa 1912), I began to have some unexpected reactions to sifting through so many incredible stories. Suddenly, what started out as a fun promotional activity (love helping other authors promote their books), turned very serious for me.

    There was a spark there, like seeing something out of the corner of your eye. The sound of excited chatter in hallways that still smelled like fresh paint, a glimpse of famous people through a lens they had never been put under before, and interventions too amazing to ever be allowed in fiction. All the wonderful personalities with hopes and dreams for the future… frozen. But, no, wait… there’s still something there…

    I haven’t quite put my finger on it, yet, but it’s something. And, as always, I’m going to tell it exactly as I see it. I’ll be reporting from the Promenade as the great ship moves out of the harbor at twelve noon, tomorrow.

    But something tells me this isn’t just a game.

  23. Ann Bracken says:

    Wow, I’m so impressed. What an amazing idea. I simply adore the thought of making history come alive this way. It’s the reason I prefer historical fiction!

  24. Barbara Oden says:

    Janice is a bright and shining star to her fans! Her personal interaction with us on the FB page has been great and we’re having a blast with her — we just had our first high tea at my make believe mansion in Southampton as a way to meet each other before we set sail tomorrow. What fun!

  25. Bonnie Way says:

    Totally cool idea. I think people like the idea of participating nowadays – everything is becoming interactive. So instead of just reading the book, they can talk about it and find out more about and get more involved. Like going to a sing-along of your favourite musical. 🙂 And there is something about the Titanic that brings out the romantic in all of us, so it’s cool to find out more about that ship. 🙂

  26. Nichole Osborn says:

    I think it’s a very creative, out of the box idea…a great way to promote the books already out. 2013 is a long way off, yet. Not sure the interest can stay at this level for that long.

  27. Another challenge with this is the sheer number of participants in the beginning overloading a person’s Inbox and making them unsub from the group. Since I joined yesterday, I have 48 messages from the group. I’m working on deadline this week, so I don’t have the time to really look into it, but it’s annoying when you do check your email to find all of these messages there. Yes, you can turn off email notifications to the group, but that’s like following a blog through GFC–you’re destined to forget about it. Since I really want to look into this, I’m not ready to stop the emails from coming or unsub yet.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Clogged email boxes are a downside, as is the amount of time I just spent reading comments as the ship leaves the harbor. I’m loving the individual passengers’ voices that are coming through the comments. But I’m not making good progress through my to-do list.

  28. Peter DeHaan says:

    This promotion is brilliant!

    I am following the posts, but am not actively participating. Though I’m tempted to opt not in order to stop the email notifications, so far I am engaged enough not to.

    Well done!