Let’s start off here: 95% of books are sold via personal recommendation. Let that sink in for a minute.
Personal recommendations are the biggest sales generator — not just for books, but a lot of things. Think about the last time you heard a friend tell you that XYZ was an awesome product, or book or kitchen widget. You probably went onto Amazon, or Etsy or wherever you shop online and looked. Chances are pretty darned good you bought it, too. A personal recommendation is the best and most powerful book marketing you can have.
That’s the power of personal recommendation and that’s what we’re going to dig into in this article. How to harness this power, build on it, and grow your book sales. But first, let’s take a look at the role super fans and street teams play.
A Super Fan Profiled
Several years back, we worked on a project that circled around the Days of Our Lives 45th year anniversary. If you’re not familiar with this show, it’s a long-running soap opera. And while you may think “What does a soap opera have to do with book marketing and street teams?” My answer would be: a lot. Because there are few industries that understand the value of a fan, quite the way soap operas always have.
It was during the Daytime Emmy’s that I ran into a woman (a fan) who saw me walking around with a copy of the Days of Our Lives 45th year anniversary book and asked me if I was with the show. Without even waiting on a response, she dove right in and said that she was annoyed at the lack of design creativity of the show. In fact, she’d noticed that the throw pillows at one mansion, were being used in other homes, as well. She asked me if I could do anything about it. Actually, she insisted I look into it and (once again) without waiting on a response, she strode away.
Now, you may find that slightly creepy, that a fan is paying that close attention to something as seemingly small as a throw pillow. But let me tell you: throw pillow woman is exactly the kind of fan you want. Because she is a super fan.
What are Super Fans?
Super fans are your highly engaged fan base. These are the folks who have probably already emailed you for the next book. They have posted their review on Amazon. And they probably comment on or like all of your social posts. These are the people you really need in your corner. Why? Because they can make your book marketing efforts a whole lot easier.
I know this author who has a street team of highly engaged book loving fans. They love everything she does and when she launches a book, within a week she’s got one hundred or more reviews on her Amazon page – all of them from her super fans.
Another author I know uses her super fans as a sounding board, to run book ideas, and cover designs by. Now, you may think that super fans don’t know the first thing about publishing, so why even bother asking them, right?
Because they are readers and readers will tell you what they like, as well as what they’d like to see more of and what they’d like to see less of.
A romance author I speak with quite frequently has a special Facebook group for her super fans. Whenever she needs help getting more reviews or getting the word out about her book, they are there to help her.
Every. Single. Time.
That level of book marketing is invaluable. So how can you do this for your books, too? Let’s dig in.
Understanding the Power of Small
When I teach this class in person, I’ll cite the three examples above and ask folks if they have any idea how many super fans the author needed to accomplish this. Hands will pop up and attendees will offer their thoughts: 5,000? 10,000? And sometimes folks guess even higher than that.
The truth is, these numbers are often quite small. In fact, so small they may surprise you. Most of the authors I mention have lists smaller than 100 people. One author’s list is only 25. So how do they make this happen? I’ll go into that in a minute, but first I need to expand on the power of small.
Statistically speaking, smaller, empowered groups have more book marketing potential than big, often unfocused lists. These smaller segments, often referred to as micro-influencers, can have a bigger impact on sales than you may think. Why? Because their followers tend to more dedicated. They see all their posts, they’ve engaged with this person and they often jump to buy anything they recommend. When I talk about micro-influencers, I’m speaking of someone with 1,000 or fewer followers. These are tightly engaged communities, that tend to offer more authentic voices.
These days, I’m more inclined to seek out social media people with these small, tight communities. It’s not just because they’re easier to get to, but also because their average response rate is often ten times that of someone with 100,000 or more followers.
When it comes to book marketing, often times more is not better, sometimes it’s just more.
What’s a Street Team vs. a Super Fan?
I’ve talked a lot about both super fans and street teams, so what’s the difference? Well super fans, by definition, love everything you do. They have probably reviewed all of your books, and they love your characters. Or if you’ve written non-fiction, they follow all of your advice.
Street teams take this to a new level. They will not only engage with you, but they’ll also help you with your book marketing. Needless to say, this list needs to be very carefully culled, and not every super fan will wind up on your final street team list. That’s ok, because when it comes to book marketing, it’s not a bad idea to have both.
How to Get Started Building Your Street Team
The first piece of this is defining what you want them to do to help you with your book marketing, and what they’ll get in return. So, maybe you need your street team to share book updates, and launches on their social media, or with their mailing list. The first piece is to define this and to start building a list of what you need, before you outline what you’ll give them.
In some cases, that might be a free copy of every book you release (as long as they are in the group). Now why would you want to give away a book, if we’re talking about selling books? Because each member of your street team has the ability to reach so many more people. Giving them one book will pay off for you in big ways.
But if giving a book isn’t what you had in mind, maybe there’s another option here. You could invite them to become a part of your book marketing or book production strategy team, helping you decide on cover designs or character names. You could create a private group on Facebook that they have special access to, which readers love!
How to Identify Your Street Team
Now that you know what you want them to do, it’s time to start building your team! An easy way to get started is by doing outreach to your existing super fans, or simply sending a personal email to the folks on your existing mailing list. Some authors create actual street team pages on their websites. They outline details in terms of expectations, as well as a form people can fill out to sign up as a street team member. Keeping it more official is a great way to let folks know you’re very serious about building your street team/book marketing tribe!
When we did our street team form, we asked folks specifically how strong their social media connections were, but we were also clear up front what they got in return. Have a look at how we set this up.
You can see that there are a lot of benefits to being a part of this exclusive group. Remember that you’re asking them to help you with your book marketing, so their benefits should be really appealing.
Outline Specifics of What They’ll Need to Do
Being very clear on what you’ll need your street team to do is a big part of this, and I’d suggest doing this from the start. You don’t want folks coming into this group, without a full idea of what exactly they’ll be doing to help you out.
So, for example, I’d recommend putting together a schedule of your book release, or releases if you have multiple titles, and decide (as part of their book marketing help) when you’d want your street team to announce it to their social media followers. You can also give your followers the opportunity to share it with their newsletter, if they have a strong and responsive list.
If you’re not sure of everything you’ll need them to do, consider the basics:
- Review on each new book, within five days of it going live on Amazon (make sure they get ARCs early enough so they have time to read them)
- An announcement (during launch week) to one or more of their social media accounts, letting their followers know this book is coming out and where to buy it.
- Got eBook promos? If you’re doing an eBook promo, make sure they share that, too. Limit it to sharing one or two of these, so you aren’t overwhelming them with action items.
You can certainly expand on this, but these points above should offer you a good start.
Organize Resource Materials
If you’re going to invite people to share things about your book, images, announcements and such as part of your overall book marketing strategy, I recommend putting together sharable images so they aren’t having to create these. (You can read more different kinds of images here.) This will also help you to manage the look of your brand better, so followers aren’t sharing whatever inspires them. It helps to keep this succinct and clean, when they share pre-designed images and it’s also much easier for your street team.
I recommend creating a Drive file or a Dropbox with images that you refresh, whenever needed. You can also use this online portal as a way to keep a list of instructions, launch dates, etc. so it’s all right there for them!
Following the Rules, and Making Sure Your Street Team is Doing the Work
If you’ve clearly outlined the deliverables that your street team needs to be committed to (as well as what you’ve promised them), then the process of creating an excited team, ready to help you promote your book(s) should be easy.
Being part of your exclusive group requires that these street teams participate. So don’t hesitate to let folks know (nicely) if they aren’t doing the work they signed up for. People get busy, stuff happens, maybe they want to pause their street team status and return later. Whatever the reason, this process does require monitoring so you’ll want to make sure that you stay on top of your street team group. Which is why having a smaller number is often easier, at least until you get the hang of the monitoring needed.
Super fans and street teams are amazing to have, and a great asset to your overall book marketing strategy. In a prior article I talked about the importance of back matter and having a letter to readers to drive them to you and your website. You can see the article here! But that’s where you start, you start with your book and getting readers to write you directly once they hit the last page of that book.
As you begin to get emails, thank readers for writing to you, thank them for reading, and then start building your tribe.
Do you have super fans or a street team? I’d love to know about your experiences in the comments below!