Probably about once a month, I, Jeannie, will jump onto the blog with a post about author platforms and marketing. These posts, while specifically geared toward authors, will also be applicable for our readers. Some, like today’s, will show you more ways to help your favorite authors, while others will just give you a peek behind the scenes of a book launch or the publishing process.
Today, I’m going to walk both readers and writers through one of the more valuable processes of a book launch, and that is building a street team.
What is a street team?
I knew that was going to be the first thing that you asked when I said those two words. It’s not scary or hard, I promise you. A street team, in the most basic terms, is the author’s most avid and loyal group of fans. For many first-time authors, this generally means family and friends, perhaps a workmate even.
The purpose of a street team is to get the author’s book promoted before, during, and after the book launch. I can feel everyone starting to get itchy, but I promise, it’s not hard. I know you hear the word “promote” and you immediately get this visual of a door-to-door salesperson.
But really, street team members can get involved in any number of ways. If they want to go door to door, I wouldn’t stop them. However, I’ll run you through the top ways that a street team will help authors promote books. Some are big, while most are pretty small.
1. Book Reviews
One of the biggest perks of being on a street team is getting an advanced reader copy (ARC) of the book. In exchange for this advanced copy, all you need to do is leave a review on Amazon. Honest reviews are super hard to come by, especially for first-time authors, but are one of the best ways to boost sales.
I know, also, that people get extra nervous about writing reviews. I’m sure it has something to do with those awful page-long book reports we had to do in school, but this isn’t going to be graded and doesn’t need to be nearly as long. You don’t even have to summarize the book; that’s what the book’s summary is for. Did you like the book because you liked how the main character talked? Say that. If you thought it was really good, but you were hoping for a certain ending and that didn’t happen? Write that.
Honest, short, to-the-point.
2. Share Their Social Media Posts
It’s hard for many writers to continually post about themselves. Writers mostly tend to be a quiet, self-deprecating lot. With our Platform in a Box, we teach them some types of simple posts they can make about their books, but it’s even more helpful if you can share these posts.
No need to add anything to it if you don’t want to. A simple share to page, or retweet, is fine. If you want to go the extra mile, like the Thinklings Books page on Facebook and share our posts about the author.
3. Book Launch Party
If you are really up for some party planning and have that pizzazz, then working with a local library, bookstore, or other venue to plan a fabulous book signing / launch party is a wonderful gift for the writer in your life. If you have terrific party-planning skills but don’t know anything about book launches, just send an email to contact (at) thinklingsbooks (dot) com. I’ll be more than willing to help you brainstorm.
Authors can, of course, plan their own party; but it does seem more legit to bookstores if someone else does it . . . even if you are just the person of contact, fill out the permission forms, and then disappear into the night.
Even if you aren’t the planning or form-filling type, you can still make sure that you show up for the book signings or launch party. Having a friendly face in the crowd makes even the most boisterous, confident author feel more at ease.
4. Low-Tech Sharing
Even if you don’t like computers, social media, or the internet, you can still talk up the book on the physical streets. Your author can give you bookmarks, posters, or flyers to put in schools, libraries, bookstores, or community centers. You can even use mankind’s oldest (and arguably greatest) technology: the spoken word. Tell your book club. Tell your mother. Tell your friend who likes to read.
Here are a few additional low-tech options:
5. Putting Books on Consignment at Bookstores
The author can, again, put their book on consignment at a local bookstore, but it looks better if someone else does this. Most local bookstores have a form you can fill out, and you can give them a couple of copies of the book. You can ask your author, or email us at contact (at) thinklingsbooks (dot) com, for wholesale copies of the book to give to bookstores.
When the bookstores sell the book, they keep a certain amount of the profit and will hand the rest over to you. Usually these consignment contracts have a specific amount of time that they will have your book available. If the book doesn’t sell all of its copies before the end, you will need to come back and pick them up.
This is an especially good strategy if you are having a book signing at the local bookstore. Most of the copies will be sold right around the time of the book signing. If your author is well known in the community, you may be able to negotiate for a really good placement for the book. But, even if she is not well known, many local bookstores do have a special place for local authors to be displayed, and often quite prominently.
If you need help negotiating this area, shoot Thinklings Books an email, and we’ll be happy to help you out. We’re here to make everyone’s job easier.
6. Requesting at Libraries
Did you know that you can request books to be at your local library? Some libraries will have the book available after just one request. Others require a few more. On the other hand, libraries also have e-books for borrowing as well. You can check out the author’s book on your Kindle or other e-reader device through the library’s online catalog. This is an easy way for the library to offer a wide array of books without actually buying them. If enough people check out the e-book from the library, they may even decide to have a hard copy available as well.
You can just walk right up to the librarian and ask if they have the title of your author’s book available. You don’t even need to let them know the author is a friend. Just see if they have it available. They will look it up and say one of 3 things: 1) Yes, we have it available. 2) We do not have the hard copy of it, but you can download it via the online catalog. 3) We do not have it available, but you can submit a request; here’s the form or the link to the form.
Here is a link to my local library's book request form. It's a little hidden if you just go through the website; a librarian will be able to direct you if you go in person.
7. Writing Reviews on Goodreads
In addition to leaving reviews on Amazon, you can also use Goodreads, which is a social media platform for readers. You just need to follow the same advice I gave above for Amazon. In fact, you can leave the same review you left on Amazon.
8. Leaving Comments on Their Blog
As part of Platform in a Box, authors are given a simple website with a blog. They will once, maybe twice per month, write a post on the blog about their book, give an update on it or themselves, or on something related to their craft.
Checking in once in a while and leaving a simple, authentic comment such as “Can’t wait to see you at the book festival!” is great. Asking the author a question is also great. For example, “Who is your favorite author?”
9. Join The Readers’ Collective*
The Readers’ Collective is Thinklings Books’ group of diehard fans and readers. We send out weekly updates on our authors, which will include yours; YouTube videos; artwork; blogs; important links and dates; podcasts; and much more. It’s the easiest way to keep abreast of Thinklings’ offerings and what is going on in your author’s life.
Being part of the Collective comes with quite a few perks, such as discounts on books, exclusive author interviews and artwork from their books, and sneak peeks at videos and recordings of their books. You never know what goodies might show up in your inbox!
It’s easy to sign up. Just follow this link and put in your email address and you’ll be all set. Make sure you check your spam folder so it doesn’t get junked before you see it.
10. Get Involved with Crowdfunding
Thinklings Books does publishing a little differently. We’re a small press, and we use a structure similar to PBS or NPR. We pay our authors higher royalties, to boot. To borrow from PBS: Without the financial support of readers like you, Thinklings wouldn’t exist. If you want to learn more about how Thinklings operates and is different, we did a three-part blog series on the topic. Because its scope is too large for here, you can follow these links: Diversifying Income, Cutting Costs, Platform in a Box.
For street-team purposes, I’ll go into only one area that directly influences you and your author. And that’s the book-launch funding, done through Indiegogo. With each book that Thinklings Books publishes,** we have a crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo to cover the expenses related to the initial publishing and printing of the book. This includes printing of paperback versions, book cover and interior design, editing, and promotional materials for the book launch, such as the street-team bookmark that may have sent you here. The other QR code or link on the bookmark is for the author’s Indiegogo fundraising page, which also doubles as a pre-order platform for the books.
Finally, and I think everyone probably knows this, make sure you encourage your author. This is a scary, scary time for them! Give them a hug, a pat on the back, a smile. Tell them how awesome and brave they are. You know your author, so give them the encouragement you know would mean something to them.
Now, if you’re the author in question, I know you have one big question: How do I go about building my street team?
Thinklings tries to make it easier for you too. That’s why we’ve created this post and offer all our authors street-team bookmarks as part of the Platform in a Box. Most of the people who will be on your street team are people who know you well. It shouldn’t be too nerve-racking asking your mother to pass out some flyers or your bestie to join you at your book signing. Most of the time, your street team will consist of people who are already wanting to and often asking to help.
Most of the problem, then, lies in what do you tell them to do. That’s where the bookmarks come in. Part of the goodies provided in Platform in a Box is a handy little bookmark with the cover of your book, the link to its pre-order or ordering page and a QR code that leads to it, the Thinklings website, your website (which is another thing included in Platform in a Box), and the top 5 ways to support your author with a link and a QR code to this blog post.
So if someone asks you how they can help, you can just hand them the bookmark. I cannot express enough how easy we want it to be for our authors to build up their platform and get the word out about their books!
And one last time, for good measure: If you need more help or have questions regarding this post, shoot us an email: contact (at) thinklingsbooks (dot) com.
*The Readers' Collective is now Thinklings' Thoughts and comes out monthly.
**Our Indiegogo campaigns have been discontinued.