3 Reasons Why a Facebook Page Can’t Replace an Author Website

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I was recently talking with a debut novelist who was advised by someone in the publishing industry that a Facebook author page would be OK to use instead of creating an author website.

I’ve occasionally been asked by authors at conferences: Why not just use Facebook? Isn’t that where everyone is spending their time already? Why would people visit my site? Why bother with all the effort of establishing a site, which, if it becomes dusty or out-of-date, could be more damaging than no website at all?

First, I’ll address why it’s a bad idea to use Facebook as a substitute for your author website.

1. People may leave Facebook.

I remember the very first fan page I created for Writer’s Digest—and it wasn’t on Facebook or Twitter. It was on MySpace. Guess how many people visit that page now?

It may be hard to envision, but Facebook may eventually lose favor. Google Plus may become more popular, or it may be an entirely new site or technology not created yet. It’s impossible to predict. But by choosing Facebook instead of an author website, you are favoring the short-term over the long-term. You are investing your time and energy in a platform that may not pay you back in several years’ time. Maybe it benefits your current campaign or initiative—but you can never be sure it’s going to benefit your second or third project.

In the meantime, your author website remains undone, and people who don’t use Facebook become incredibly difficult to identify and reach.

2. Facebook is not under your control.

This is pointing out the obvious, but authors don’t take it seriously enough. You can never control what Facebook does—with its design, with its user interface, with your likes/followers, with its functionality, with its ad displays. You’re limited in how you can optimize the experience, and your insights (metrics) are limited to what Facebook itself measures and decides to pass onto you.

Many people and businesses received a rude awakening when Facebook adjusted its algorithms so that only the most popular status updates would be seen by most fans of a page. If you want to reach ALL fans who’ve liked your page, you now have to start paying money.

That said, it’s true that a site with 1 billion users has attractive qualities to anyone building an online presence. I’m not saying ignore Facebook, but realize you don’t call the shots.

3. A website is the most effective way to deliver information to your audience.

Your author website serves as a hub for all your activity—online and offline. Imagine the following scenarios:

  1. A potential reader hears about your book from a friend. They Google your name or book title. Where do they end up? If you don’t have a website, they probably land on Amazon. That may not be a bad thing, but what if …
  2. A reader finishes your book, loves it, and wants to see if you have any book club materials, readings or events, or other opportunities to enrich the experience they’ve just had. They Google your book title. What do they find?
  3. A reader finishes your book, loves it, and wants to find other things you’ve written. That reader may explore Amazon, go back to Google and search for your author page, or find your Facebook page. Will they be able to find what they’re looking for?
  4. Someone in the media hears about your book and wants to contact you. They run a Google search. What do they find?
  5. A conference organizer reads your book and thinks you’d make a great speaker. They run a Google search. What do they find?

You probably see the common thread here. When people seek information, they often go to Google to search for it. People won’t be inclined to visit Facebook when they have a specific goal or information they’re seeking. Why? Because Facebook is a soft connection tool, for people to stay in touch in a very organic way. It’s not about structured information delivery, but conversation and social engagement.

A website, on the other hand, serves as a hub for all people who are interested in your work and are seeking more information or updates directly from you. It doesn’t matter if they heard about you online or offline, people are trained to use their mobiles, tablets, and desktops to search for more information, and your author website is a 24/7 resource waiting for them.

I haven’t even touched on the many other reasons an author website is essential to your long-term development as an author. They include:

  • Developing an e-mail newsletter list that puts you in direct contact with your true fans (this is like money in your pocket, a long-term investment that pays off hugely over time)
  • Making your other online efforts more effective—or making people aware of all the places you’re active. For instance, the No. 1 way people find out about me on Facebook (and end up subscribing to my feed) is because they’ve visited my website or read my blog.
  • Offering many ways for your fans to engage. Aside from having an e-mail newsletter, you may offer ancillary materials that fans would enjoy, such as additional chapters, resources, book club materials, etc.

But isn’t a bad website worse than no website at all?

It actually takes effort these days to have a bad website, given today’s website building tools such as WordPress.

I also have to wonder why your website would be out-of-date or damaging to your career if you continue to write and publish. The only reason I can imagine is if you had a website built in the way it was done 10 years ago, when you needed a web developer or programmer to be the “webmaster.” Today, if you create a new website, it should be done in such a way that it’s easy for YOU the author to maintain and update—no more difficult than if you were updating a Word document.

Sure, you may need to spend a couple hundred dollars every year or two for a developer to assist with a redesign or functionality add-ons. But for anyone with a long-term author career, this is one of the best and most critical investments you can make.

For more on author websites and Facebook, visit these other posts I’ve written (unless otherwise noted):


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Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

Jane currently teaches writing and publishing at the University of Virginia and is a columnist for Publishers Weekly. The Great Courses just released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (2017).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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63 Comments on "3 Reasons Why a Facebook Page Can’t Replace an Author Website"

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JosephRatliff
3 years 1 month ago

4. Perception. People expect you to have a website as a professional author… THEN a Facebook, Twitter, etc… if you’re not on the web as your own entity first, credibility suffers.

Great post Jane.

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[…] Friedman: 3 Reasons Why a Facebook Page Can’t Replace an Author Website. Excerpt: “I’ve occasionally been asked by authors at conferences: Why not just use […]

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[…] online presence, none of them take the place of a good, clean author website. Jane Friedman has 3 Reasons Why a Facebook Page Can’t Replace an Author Website. (I might suggest the same reasons apply to a business website.) Reasons No. 1 & 2? Think […]

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[…] Regardless of when or why you use Facebook, never consider it a replacement for an author website you own and control. Here's why.  […]

Richard Gilbert
Richard Gilbert
3 years 1 month ago
Excellent tips and outlook. Thanks, Jane. With my memoir being published in Spring 2014, I am in the midst of having someone experienced with WordPress.org software make a web site and incorporate my existing WordPress.com blog, which has five years of content (I have posted every five days, on average). My concern isn’t design or “look,” as I have seen his work and know that’s easily changed, but transferring my content seamlessly. He has done it before but confesses that sometimes there are glitches with graphics, and most of my posts include photos I’ve taken and which I would like… Read more »
Linda Paul
Linda Paul
3 years 1 month ago

Item 1. There’s no guarantee that WordPress or any other platform will endure.

However, I really do agree with you on all the other points you mention. FB is for fun. An author website is for serious work. Besides there is no reason why a person can’t use FB to guide people to their serious website. That has worked amazingly well for my personal blog, even though the blog is not an author website.

Waldo Jaquith
3 years 1 month ago

There’s no guarantee that WordPress or any other platform will endure.

That’s not true. WordPress is free, open source software—as you long as you care to run it on your server, it will endure, and there’s nothing that anybody can do about that. Facebook, on the other hand, will endure only so long as its owners decide that it should continue to exist.

Bill Peschel
3 years 1 month ago

If you run WordPress on your own site, as opposed to getting a free one through wordpress.com, you’ll still have your site if the mothership goes down.

Jon Konrath
Jon Konrath
3 years 1 month ago

Also, if you do decide to register your own domain name and then point it to a self-hosted WordPress instance, if WP ever does die or something better becomes the dominant platform, you can always migrate your old content to the new software in the same place. And one of the components of Google PageRank is how long your domain has been registered, so keeping the same hostname registered is important.

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Reasons Why You Shouldn't Use Facebook For An Author Website | Author Website Services
3 years 1 month ago

[…] a publishing blog took on the topic of Facebook pages as author websites. The post gives three solid reasons against this action, which we wholeheartedly agree […]

Natalie Aguirre
Natalie Aguirre
3 years 1 month ago

Great tips on why a website is valuable. I’ll definitely create one if I ever sell a book.

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[…] 3 Reasons Why a Facebook Page Can’t Replace an Author Website. […]

T.D. Hart
3 years 1 month ago

Here’s a question: Does a Blogger site–which is set up essentially as a website and a blog–count? There are so many tools I haven’t explored, but it seems like a one-stop way to engage readers and offer current info.
Or do we need a dedicated website AND a blog?
Thanks,
T.D. Hart

Mary Ann de Stefano
3 years 1 month ago

In my opinion, writers need to have one main website that includes a blog. As Jane says, you want to create a hub, a home base. So you only want to have one home base. (You don’t want to be competing with yourself for hits.)

Blogger, lets you create static pages, as well as dynamic (blog) pages so you have all you need right there. Blogger has been around for a long time, but is ultimately subject to the whims of Google, so I prefer hosted WordPress for that and many other reasons.

David Kutcher
3 years 1 month ago

Yes, a blogger site “counts” and is a great platform to use, just make sure to add your own custom domain to it!

Regarding WordPress vs Blogger, if you are not the most technical or don’t have a significant and compelling reason, Blogger is just as good: http://www.blogxpertise.com/2012/08/10-reasons-blogger-better-wordpress.html

You can also customize your Blogger site to be anything: http://www.confluentforms.com/2011/07/you-can-do-some-amazing-things-with.html

Bill Peschel
3 years 1 month ago

I know authors who have started and stayed on blogger and do just fine. The principle still stands: have a place to call your own.

Dianna Winget
Dianna Winget
3 years 1 month ago

Hi Jane
I appreciated this post. When my debut MG sold last year, I put part of my advance money into having a professional website designed. It came out beautifully, but is somewhat expensive to maintain. I’ve made a personal choice not to be on FB, but instead to continue trying various ways to draw traffic to my site. Thanks for confirming the importance of a good author site.

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[…] Another one for Writers on using a Facebook Fan Page as a website? https://janefriedman.com/2013/06/29/facebook-cant-replace-website/ […]

Mrs. Mac
Mrs. Mac
3 years 1 month ago
Interesting article. As a reader, and a FB user, I will say that I don’t “like” very many professional FB pages. I use it mainly to keep in touch with family and friends. I have found that far too many professional pages wind up with personal comments from the author/designer/musician/etc, and honestly — I don’t want to know everyone’s political, religious, etc leanings. I’d rather enjoy your books, your music, your products. If you post how much you dislike folks who ______, and I’m one of those folks, you’ve just insulted me and I’ll spend my money on another author,… Read more »
Bill Peschel
3 years 1 month ago

The nice thing about WordPress is that it’s flexible. If you don’t want a blog, you don’t have to have one. You can have static pages where you put your book information up and links to excerpts and other goodies.

In fact, that can be the bare minimum of an author’s website. When I read about a new book, I’ll google that author’s name and look in particular for book excerpts. Anything else — a snazzy design, QnA’s with the author, and other goodies — is just gravy.

David Kutcher
3 years 1 month ago

You’ve left out the biggest reason of all: EdgeRank.

EdgeRank, Facebook’s algorithm to determine what people see if their feed, will cause ~70%+ of the people who have Liked you to miss your updates.

Why give Facebook that power? http://www.confluentforms.com/2012/07/forget-facebook-keep-your-fans-to.html

rhadin
rhadin
3 years 1 month ago
Although I agree with your stated reasons, I think you are missing two equally important reasons: (1) many avid book buyers like their privacy and do not have Facebook accounts because of Facebook’s reputation for totally disregarding users’ privacy and for changing privacy rules and settings virtually hourly to frustrate any attempts by users to maintain even a modicum of privacy and (2) many people choose not to join or often visit Facebook because they do not want to give Facebook the ability to sell to third parties information about them for marketing purposes. Basically, it all boils down to… Read more »
Debbie Young
Debbie Young
3 years 1 month ago

Great article, Jane – well said! I’m shocked that “someone in publishing” would recommend an author to even consider using FB as a website. Me, I’m hooked on WordPress 🙂

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[…] See on janefriedman.com […]

Alex Myers
Alex Myers
3 years 1 month ago

Very interesting! With my first novel coming out in January 2014, this is a topic that is important to me. I’ve been urged to have the dual presence in FB and Website (Blog) and I can see how having both is preferable to just one.

Your reasons under #3 are the most compelling for me: what do people get when they search… It makes me curious: do you think that FB will start showing up in Google results more prominently as people use FB as a business (including writing) platform?

Thanks for the post!

Josie Mills
Josie Mills
3 years 1 month ago

So true–all of it. I’m so aware each day what a lack of control I have over Facebook. It’s nice to have complete control over your own website. It really is.

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[…] 3 Reasons Why Facebook Can’t Replace Your Author Website – Jane Friedman writes an important article! She is spot on. […]

theresamilstein
theresamilstein
3 years 1 month ago

I agree, Jane. This is especially for true for children’s authors. Their readers may not even be on Facebook yet. And the Facebook page is limiting. If you want to provide an interactive experience, FB shouldn’t be an author’s only option.

Susan K
Susan K
3 years 1 month ago

are you using the terms wordpress blog and website interchangeably?

Terre Britton
3 years 1 month ago
Hi Jane, I agree with everything you’ve said about Facebook, Google and web sites. As a graphic designer, the rise of DIY web presence for low-budget clients, friends, and family was liberating, for all involved. I was able to point these folks to systems they could easily use and of which they could take ownership and gain self-satisfaction. And although I, too, discourage using FB as your home base, “presence” is key. One just needs to Google (or Bing) the leaders in the writing and publishing industries to see FBs positive influence. So to maximize discoverability, besides a WP blog/site,… Read more »
Linda Paul
Linda Paul
3 years 1 month ago

Call me a dummy. I signed up for the webinar, then mixed up time conversions and missed it. I thought there was some place I could find a transcript online? Do you have any suggestions for a dummy like me?

Iola Goulton
Iola Goulton
3 years 1 month ago

When I review a book I try and post a link to the author’s website or blog. But I want it to be their website – http://www.authors name.whatever. Not their Facebook page. Yet I still get a few authors (indie and trade published) where I can’t find a website via Google. No matter. No obvious website, no link.

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[…] Meghan Ward lists 5 alternatives to Google Reader, which went away July 1st; Jami Gold explores the pros and cons of using a third-party commenting system on your blog; and Jane Friedman has 3 reasons why Facebook cannot replace an author website. […]

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[…] Why Facebook can’t replace your website. Hat tip to Steve Laube for article by Jane Friedman: Read more… […]

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[…] 3 Reasons Why a Facebook Page Can’t Replace an Author Website by @JaneFriedman: This is a song I’m singing all the time. Don’t put your most valuable asset in the hands of someone else, especially a mega-company who might (and often does) change all the rules on a whim […]

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[…] Why FB Shouldn’t Replace Author Websites from the always insightful Jane Friedman […]

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[…] Three Reasons Why Facebook Can’t Replace a Website<http://janefriedman .com/2013/ 06/29/facebook- cant-replace- website/> […]

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[…] 3 Reasons Why Facebook Can’t Replace Your Author Website […]

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[…] It’s not unusual for authors to be told by their publishers that an author website isn’t necessary or effective. Publishers may advise authors that they’re better off creating and maintaining a Facebook page instead. (I address the flaws in that strategy here.) […]

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[…] 3 Reasons Why Facebook Can’t Replace Your Author Website Quick note: This Tuesday, I’m teaching one of my most popular online classes: how to establish your own author website using the WordPress system. Click here for more details. I was recently talking with a debut novelist who was advised by someone in the publishing industry that a Facebook author page would be OK to use instead of creating an author website. Jane Friedman […]

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[…] which network you choose, remember that social media should be in addition to an author website. Your Facebook page does not take the place of an author website. Think of being on social media as sprinkling bread crumbs across the Internet. The goal is to get […]

Serouj
Serouj
2 years 3 months ago

I believe the social media’s biggest role is to bring more visitors to your own website.

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[…] I did a quick search on Google “Why a Facebook Page?” (in quotations) and the results were robust….1,070,000 pages/links/hidie-holes showed up for me to browse and learn. It was surprising the number one page that came up was: 3 Reasons Why a Facebook Page Can’t Replace an Author Website […]

Joey Cagle
Joey Cagle
1 year 9 months ago

Great info! I’m doing some research on author websites because I’m considering going into the niche of website design for authors. I haven’t decided 100% for sure though.

I will say this, though. Yes, WordPress CAN be easy to maintain, but I’ve had clients in the past that, even after training them on WordPress, for whatever reason, don’t maintain it and the site gets hacked, etc. That’s why I offer maintenance plans for the sites I do, because apparently some don’t want to be bothered with maintaining it, even when it’s pretty easy.

Sheri49
11 months 22 days ago

Longtime WP dev, so yes I have that bias. I despise FB mainly from an aesthetic POV but I also think it’s just a social-chat-a-chat-chat thing. Pics of my cat! Here’s a selfie! All that. YMMV, of course, but I’m taking my chances and staying invisible with my website(s).

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[…] Can’t a writer just rely on Facebook? No. On a website, a writer provides structured information. Facebook is about social engagement. They change their platform all the time, in part to earn advertising dollars. See Jane Friedman’s blog. […]

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[…] my Hot Sheet colleague Jane Friedman has pointed out many times — including in this post at her site years ago — there are three reasons that Facebook is not a good substitute for your own site. As Friedman […]

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