Does Facebook sell books? It’s a question a lot of authors have. Julia Schopick certainly thinks so: the bestselling author of Honest Medicine has made the Amazon.com bestseller lists for five years. Schopick mentioned Facebook during our recent chat about radio promotion, and I wanted to find out more. Here’s how she uses Facebook to sell books and spread the word.

Q: When we last talked, it was about radio. But what struck me was that you said you use Facebook a lot for promotion too.

A: Absolutely. I do indeed use Facebook. In our last conversation I was talking about how I use it to promote my radio appearances, posting not only before my interviews but afterwards too, if the show is archived. I also use Facebook to start conversations: I participate in ongoing conversations in a whole range of Facebook groups, and I have conversations going on both of my Facebook pages (my personal page and my book page).

Q: What about all the articles online saying that Facebook is not good for selling books?

A: Most of those articles are about Facebook ads — which I actually agree are not very effective for selling books. I’ve used Facebook ads and have been less than impressed with the results. I think most people are wary of ads, since they know it’s paid space. Proclaiming the virtues of your book doesn’t come off as genuine when it’s done within an ad.

Q: Then how do you promote books using Facebook?

A: Ironically, the secret to promoting (whether books or anything else) on Facebook is to not out-and-out sell. I know a career counselor who only posts when she is giving a paid counseling program. To me, that’s a mistake: it comes off as spamming, which is a big faux pas on social media.

Q: So in a sense you’re selling without selling?

A:Exactly. Facebook is an enormous community. So it’s really about being a part of that community — giving information, being supportive and helpful, and building relationships. I share a great deal of health-related information on Facebook, and that makes me a valuable resource.

Q: Can you give us some examples?

A: One of the treatments I feature in my book is Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) for autoimmune diseases. LDN just happens to be a cause célèbre on Facebook. There are numerous Facebook groups dedicated to helping patients with various autoimmune diseases learn about LDN, and get their doctors to prescribe it. Some are general, such as “Got Endorphins? LDN.” Others are more specific, geared to people with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. And there are LDN Facebook groups around the world, including the Netherlands, Norway, France, Brazil, and Germany, etc. Since my book is now being published internationally, I’ve joined several of these (and have come to appreciate Google Translator).

Q: Since these groups are so specific, are they pretty small?

A: On the contrary. Some have many thousands of members. The Norwegian group numbers over 10,000. “Got Endorphins? LDN” has more than 12,000. So there’s incredible reach. Many of these are closed groups, so you do have to join them. But it’s well worth the extra step.

Then it’s more about interacting with these groups than selling to them?

A:Yes, it’s completely about interactions. It’s not a one-way relationship. So what I don’t do is continuously post about my book. Nor should any author. But if I’m going to be on a radio show discussing LDN, I’ll post an announcement on several of these LDN Facebook groups, and make sure it says “we’ll be discussing LDN,” and link to the show. If the show happened already, I post in the past tense and link to the archive. If I talked on the show about a particular LDN patient advocate (such as Crystal Nason or Renee Foster), or a person who contributed a chapter to my book (such as Linda Elsegood), I’ll also tag that person in my post. This way, they’ll know I mentioned them.

Is tagging that helpful on Facebook?

A:Tagging is a terrific Facebook feature. It’s actually my favorite. And it’s definitely underutilized by authors. Many people don’t realize that tagging is a way of sending a heads-up to another person — and hence, making a new friend who may, in turn, promote your book. People usually feel like a tag is a compliment when it’s done correctly. It’s a great example of good social media etiquette, which people appreciate.

Q: What about posting other kinds of information?

A: That is useful too. Often I post articles about related topics that I think will interest members of a particular group. For instance, I found an article online about a pharmaceutical treatment for rheumatoid arthritis that was found to be dangerous (as many of these drugs are). So I shared it with the LDN/Rheumatoid Arthritis Facebook group. If I find an interesting article about the difficulties associated with having Crohn’s disease, even if it has nothing to do with any medication, I’ll share it with the Crohn’s/LDN group, since I know its members will find it interesting.

Do you always just give information out in posts?

A:Actually, no. Another great Facebook tool I think could be used more effectively is commenting. I’ll also include information in comments to someone else’s post, which is a great way to deepen the conversation. LDN was actually proven to have enormous potential for treating Crohn’s in three studies done at Penn State — all of which have been published in prestigious medical journals, and that’s a great item to include in an appropriate comment. Sometimes I’ll actually link to the studies as well.

Q: My next question: does all of this help you sell books?

A: It doesn’t directly, yet it does. As I said, I’m participating in a community: offering information, sparking connections. Someone usually comments on a post of mine, and writes a thank-you. And often, as well as thanking me, they mention Honest Medicine — and recommend that everyone buy it. They may even link to the book’s page on Amazon. It’s an incredible bump — and best of all, it didn’t come from me. I coach other authors now, and I often tell them that the first time this happens, that’s when they’ll understand the power of Facebook.

Q: That’s terrific. So you’re coaching other authors now as well?

A: I am. I’m coaching other authors on how to be informative and engaging not just on Facebook, but also on radio talk shows and other venues.

What made you decide to start doing this?

A:I had a kind of “aha” moment,when I noticed that my own interest in helping people — by sharing information and participating in conversations — was actually selling my books. It wasn’t an intentional part of an active campaign to sell — it was what I do naturally, which is to teach, to share, to be involved. Also, early on in my career, I taught college, and I’ve been a PR consultant for more than 25 years. Combining all this has been a natural move for me, and it definitely helped my book become more popular.

Q: That’s great. But how popular?

A: Well, after one radio show, “Coast to Coast AM,” my book hit #49 out of all the books on Amazon. So far, I’ve sold around 15,000 copies, which is practically unheard of for an independently published book. And for 5 years, off and on, it’s been an Amazon.com bestseller. I truly believe it’s all thanks to my online and on-air promotional efforts. So I realized I have something to offer other authors, by helping them get their books out there too.

Q: Are you working with only specific authors?

A: No, though I love working with authors who have a passion to change the world. And since my personal passion is integrative health and outside-the-box medical treatments, I love working with integrative health practitioners. But I don’t limit it. I’m happy to work with any author who wants to make a positive change in our world. At the same time as I’m helping the author, I’m also hopefully helping to change the world.

Q: Are you working with authors whose books are out with large publishing houses?

A: Yes. Because it’s a common misconception that large publishing houses promote all their authors’ books. Unless an author is extremely high-profile, most “smaller” authors are left on their own. They’re told to hire their own outside publicist, and even if it’s paid for by the publisher — which is not the norm — most often, that doesn’t include social marketing or online promotion. That’s the kind of promotion I do.

Q: And how should authors find you?

A: They can visit here — and they can also write to me at [email protected].