Want a loyal army of fans to promote your book for you? Then keep reading for tips! New York Times bestselling author, Sabrina York, is our guest columnist. She's so enthusiastic about sharing her book marketing experience that she wrote a 3-part series! These posts are devoted to helping you organize and manage a virtual network of fans – which is called a “Street Team” -- to help you spread the word about your book.
Today’s post begins the series, which will run on consecutive Fridays. ~ Adrienne deWolfe
The Most Powerful Weapon
in Your Book Marketing Arsenal
By Sabrina York
Nothing is more powerful.
Nothing has greater potential to launch your platform into the stratosphere.
Nothing can get you where you want to go faster than this one tool.
What is it?
No matter who you are, or what you write, or where you sell, relationships are the secret to success in this business…and every other. In a world where millions of books are fighting for reader dollars and thousands of authors are shouting to be heard over the fray, often the strongest voice is the whisper of a friend.
In a recent poll I took on Facebook, readers overwhelmingly reported that they rely on book referrals from friends, favorite blogs or reader networks (such as book clubs) when they choose their next read.
There are many ways an author can leverage this trend, but they all boil down to cultivating, fostering and maintaining quality relationships.
One tool—and a very powerful one, if used right—is having a street team.
What is a Street Team?
Simply put, your biggest fans. Readers, friends, bloggers, reviewers, fellow authors and others who love your books so much, they want to share them with their corner of the universe.
I started my street team about a year ago and it was one of the smartest moves I’ve ever made—simply because of the amazing connections that have come from it. I decided to keep it small at first, while I figured it all out, sending out a call to my newsletter subscribers only. I did not do a social media blast. I was shocked at the response I received.
Many of the charter members of the Royal Street Team (RST) were readers who had found me on Facebook, whom I considered friends because of our interaction there. But what surprised me was the response from bloggers and reviewers and other authors. I had assumed they were far too busy to promote my books. On the contrary, they are delighted to do so. In fact, they have become some of my most influential supporters.
While street teams do not come without cost or perils, the benefits can be gold. Author Cassandra Carr agrees. “I have a dedicated group of fans who are out there talking up my books. That's invaluable in today's world of a million books. There is a cost involved, but I like to think it pays off in the form of increased awareness and sales.”
Author Cerise Deland loves that she gets to talk about her books in an intimate fashion to an engaged audience. As a bonus, many will write reviews for the books they’ve read because of this relationship with her.
And as we all know, reviews sell books.
How Does it Work?
Ask a hundred authors and you will get a hundred answers. But in short, I recommend following these steps:
FIRST: Develop a set of guidelines for your street team, including what you will be expecting them to do and how you plan to thank them. My street team guidelines include a section on the difference between erotic romance and porn (because I write erotic romance, I want my street team members to understand the difference). I also have a section on Push vs Pull Promotion—the difference between a hard and a soft sell. Because I want a relationship with my reader, I do not want them alienated by a hard sell.
Beyond that, know what kinds of things you will require of your team, and what the terms of your agreement will be. For example, some authors will eject members for not being active enough or not making benchmarks. If you plan to do that, ask yourself if you are okay with the damage that might cause to your relationship with that reader.
COND: Decide how large a team you want. Some authors have hundreds of members. But if your goal is to create relationships and manage the team well, you may want to keep it small. I decided to start with a dozen or so members and let my team grow organically. I have discovered some members are much more active than others—which is fine with me, as it is the relationship that’s important to me.
Some of my team members have quit other teams that became too large—and unruly. And when the author didn’t step in to put the kibosh on bullying or unhealthy competition, the relationship with that reader was irreparably damaged—along with the author’s reputation.
THIRD: Once you know what you want your team to look like, craft your call. Anything from private emails to a full-fledged blitz on social media. When Cassandra Carr first started up her team, she posted about it on Facebook and Twitter and included it in her newsletters. She also has a sign-up tool on her website. Following a similar method, Cerise DeLand put out a call on Facebook. She immediately had 15 people join, and within days had over 40. This is an excellent example of how building relationships with readers via social media can pay off when you need it to.
FOURTH: Manage your team. I keep a data base with email addresses, home addresses, preferences for prizes should they win (with t-shirt sizes, ebook formats, favorite color, etc.). I also track what, if anything, I have sent them as well as any review they write for me so I can thank them.
When a new member joins, it helps to have a boilerplate welcome with your guidelines and expectations ready to go. In her book, Street Team Smarts, Sara Humphreys recommends sending a welcome package to new members, including promo materials for them to share, instructions and a thank you gift with the street team logo. Sara’s book has more ideas on networking with booksellers through your street team.
Once your members are active, remember to stay engaged. I like to send regular updates about my books, or things I need to have shared. I never require any member do anything. But I ask that they share when they can. See—my preference for a soft sell at work. You may get a better response by barking demands and issuing commands, but only for a while. These are volunteers you are dealing with, after all. And THEY CAN QUIT!
Next week…How you can use your street team to leverage your author platform
In two weeks…The Danger Zones of street teams and when to just say no!
About Sabrina York
Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York, is an award winning, New York Times bestselling author of hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers. Her titles range from sweet & steamy erotic romance to spicy BDSM.
Visit her webpage at www.sabrinayork.com to check out her books, excerpts and contests. Don’t forget to enter to win the royal tiara! Learn More About Sabrina’s Books: Sign up for her newsletter (book information, contests and special offers) Download her free Teaser Book for 75 pages of book blurbs, excerpts and reviews
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