Did you know that 95% of books are sold via personal recommendation? If that’s news to you, it shouldn’t be.
Think about the last time a friend recommended a product to you. Did you look it up online? Probably. Chances are good you bought it, too. And that’s why personal recommendations are the best and most powerful book marketing you can have.
And that’s the true beauty of street teams, super fans and micro influencers. They offer you a way to harness the power of the personal recommendation and turn it into a powerful book marketing strategy.
The Anatomy of a Super Fan
Several years back, I worked on a project that dovetailed with the Days of Our Lives 45th year anniversary. The soap opera industry understands the power of fans unlike just about any other industry, which is why this example is so powerful.
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. Before I could respond, she launched into a diatribe on how uncreative the set design was, because she noticed how the throw pillows at one mansion, were also used in other homes. She demanded I do something about it and then she strode away.
And while her dedication may be the stuff of legend, she’s exactly the fan you want. She’s a super fan.
Super fans are the most highly engaged segment of your fan base. They post reviews to Amazon, comment on all of your social media posts, and they’re probably on your mailing list. And these are exactly the folks you want to help you market your book, because they’ll recommend it to their friends.
An author I work with has a street team made up of people who are passionate about her books. In fact, within a week of launching a new book, her Amazon book page has at least 100 reviews.
Other authors use super fans as a sounding board for book ideas, cover designs, even on some occasions, plot development. And this is a powerful strategy, because even though they aren’t (most likely) in the publishing industry, they are readers who know what they like and what they don’t like. And they will tell you!
Facebook groups are a great way to mobilize super fans. Not only is it like an exclusive club, but whenever you need help spreading the word about a new book, they will be there to help you.
Every. Single. Time.
And that’s what you want to harness. But first, you must understand the power of small.
Think Small to Think Big
When I teach this workshop, I ask attendees how many super fans they think an author needs. Inevitably, people guess 5,000 or 10,000, and sometimes even more!
The truth is, these numbers are often quite small, often less than 100 people, and in fact, one author’s list is only 25. Small is powerful.
Statistically speaking, smaller groups that are highly engaged are more powerful than bigger, unfocused lists. These smaller segments, often referred to as micro-influencers, can have a huge impact on sales because their followers are more dedicated. They see every social post, and often jump to buy anything this person recommends.
With this in mind, when I talk about micro-influencers, I’m speaking of someone with 1,000 or fewer followers. You can think of it as a tightly knit community filled with authentic voices.
As a result, I tend to reach out to influencers with communities like these. 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.
Remember, more isn’t always better, sometimes it’s just more.
Street Teams vs. Super Fans?
I love street teams and super fans and talk a lot about both. And it’s important to note that while they are similar, there are also some key differences. Super fans love everything you do. They review 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. Not only do they engage with you but they can also be a big help with your book marketing. Not every super fan is a good candidate for a street team, and it’s important to vet everyone carefully.
How to Build Your Street Team
Before you get too far, you’ll need to clearly define not just how you want them to help you, but also what they’ll get in return. Ideas might be sharing book updates and launches with their network, maybe via social, or maybe via their own mailing list.
In terms of what you’ll give them, maybe it’s a free copy of every book you release while they’re working with you. Free is important when it comes to your street team. While yes, your goal is selling books, you want to make it easy for your street team. Each of them has the ability (and willingness) to reach so many more people. Giving them one book will pay off for you in big ways.
If you really can’t give them books, then you can also invite them to become a part of your book marketing or book production strategy team, helping you decide on cover designs or character names.
And of course, once this is defined, start building your street team. You may want to start by sending a personal email to the people you know are super fans, or maybe to the folks on your existing mailing list. Some authors create a page on their website that outlines expectations and benefits with an “application form.” Giving it an official feel lets your street team know you’re serious about this!
If you want to see what we’ve done, we asked people about the strength of their social media connections, and were also clear up front what they got in return. Have a look at how we set this up.
We offer a lot of benefits to being a part of this exclusive group. And you should too. Remember, you’re asking these folks to help you with your book marketing, so their benefits should be really appealing.
Be Clear on Specifics
You’ll want to be clear on this from the start. The more specific you can be about expectation and delivery, the stronger your street team will be.
I’d recommend making a book release schedule available to your street team that also details deliverables along the way, including when (and maybe how) you want your street team to announce it to their social media followers or email lists.
If you’re unsure of what this looks like, some basics you may want to consider may be:
- An Amazon review of each book within a week of going live (make sure they have ARCs with enough time to read them).
- A launch week announcement to let their followers know this book is coming out and where to buy it.
- Sharing one or two eBook promos.
You can certainly expand on this, but these points above should offer you a good start. Just remember to keep action items to a manageable level so you don’t overwhelm them.
If you’re asking folks to share content (images, announcements, etc) for you, make it easy for them. You may want to manage your brand, and having a set of images in either a Google Drive or Dropbox file that they can pull from makes it easy on them and keeps your brand clean. You can read more different kinds of images here.)
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!
Managing the Rules and Workload
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.
However, if these folks aren’t living up to your expectations by participating as agreed, don’t hesitate to nicely let them know 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.
This process does require monitoring, so starting smaller can really make this easier until you have a system in place to monitor everything.
It’s truly amazing to have super fans and street teams on your side. And if you’re just starting out and don’t have a tribe yet, encourage them to contact you! In fact, I’ve written before about how you can actually drive people to you by including a letter to readers at the back of your book. You can see the article here!
As you begin to get emails, thank readers for writing to you, thank them for reading, and then start building your super fans and street team!
Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and AME, visit www.amarketingexpert.com.