Before I launch into the when and how, a couple of disclosures. First, I am, by far, NOT an expert. I am a debut author and this whole street team business is new to me. I’m literally muddling my way through.
Second, I must give a shout out to the queen of street teams, Steena Holmes. Orly was kind enough to remind me about Steena’s WITS article published a few years ago. Plus, in a round-about way, I modeled my street team “community” after Steena’s Secret Society.
Once I decided starting a street team was on the agenda, there were two bigger issues to tackle: How do I do this and when, especially since my book wasn’t even published yet? What could I offer my followers?
WHEN DO YOU START A STREET TEAM?
It’s hard to start a team when you don’t have a book on the shelves, or a publishing contract, or even an agent. My advice? Don’t start building your street team with an actual team. Start building an audience through your newsletter. Gain your readers’ (fans, followers, whatever) loyalty in advance.
I launched a newsletter way before I created a street team. But here’s what I did differently. Rarely, if ever, do I call it a newsletter. Following the beachy theme of my website, I branded my newsletter as Kerry’s Beach Club. My subscribers don’t sign up for a newsletter. They JOIN a club. Immediately, there’s a sense of community, right?
So, when do you start a newsletter?
Now. Today. No better time than the present no matter what stage you’re at.
Here are the steps I took. Some may work for you, others not so much. Glean what you can use and spin it, rebrand it, mold it to fit the image you want as an author.
1. Start that newsletter. Just started writing? Already have several books published? Just to reiterate: There is no better time to start than the present, no matter what stage you’re at. As for content, well, the reason my friends, family, and social media followers were interested in me is because they wanted to get to know me as a writer. Every journey to and beyond publishing is unique. When I didn’t have a book to share, or book covers to reveal, or anything tangible to offer, I shared my journey. I let them into my world. I tried to be as personable as possible. Share the downs along with the ups. Let them feel what you’re feeling. (You’re a writer. Write with emotion.)
2. Brand your newsletter. As I mentioned above, I branded mine as Kerry’s Beach Club where I could INVITE people to JOIN. Again, it evokes a sense of community.
Secondly, I keep the content and tone of the beach club mailings personable. I write as though I’m talking one-on-one to each “beach pal.” And I do my best, hopefully, to put an interesting twist on the news I share as opposed to just spouting off updates in an uninteresting and dry format.
3. Market your newsletter. Make it easy on yourself. Do an initial announcement on your blog, share to your social media accounts. After that, automate it. Schedule bi-weekly tweets on Twitter. Schedule a monthly (or quarterly) post on your Facebook page. Spin your tweets and posts to make signing up or joining enticing. Come on, you are writers. You can do this. Here’s an example I once used:
Have you joined my beach club?
I’ve reserved the best spot under the sun for you.
1st virtual Mai Tai on me. (insert Tinylink)
(If you have space, add a picture or fun emoticons to grab the reader’s attention.)
4. Make it easy to subscribe to (or join) your newsletter. Your registration form should be located in AT LEAST three places on your website:
- Home page
- Newsletter page (For me this is my FOR READERS)
- Left or right margin on blog page, depending how your page is set up.
- Pop-up. Assuming your website is capable. I use the MailMunch plugin.
Slowly, but surely, your subscribers list will build. When you’re ready to start your street team, you already have a list of loyal readers eager to further demonstrate their loyalty. (PS, This is exactly what Steena suggested in her article.)
As for when I started my street team, I created it as soon as I publicly announced my publishing contract. That was two years after I launched Kerry’s Beach Club.
HOW DO YOU START A STREET TEAM?
If you’re sales-pitchy shy like me, don’t ask friends to hawk your book. Don’t wrangle your family into spamming their connections. Do, however, invite family, friends, colleagues and social media followers to JOIN your COMMUNITY.
1. Create the structure of your community. Where and how will you interact with your team? For mine, it’s a secret Facebook group. It can also be a chatroom, a forum you embed on your website, a Google+ circle, or Yahoo group. Any place where you can engage with your top readers and supporters and they can not only interact with you, but with each other.
2. Brand your community. My “street team” is the Tiki Lounge, an exclusive area of Kerry’s Beach Club. (Notice how I doglegged off my newsletter?)
I also spun it so that if you want to be a Tiki (Shout out to Andrea Katz for coming up with that gem.), you must gain access to the Tiki Lounge. Not everyone automatically gets inside. (Envision a cordoned off section of the hottest night club in town. With bouncers.) You need to follow a few very specific steps to get inside. These include: subscribing to my newsletter, liking my Facebook page, following me on Twitter, and adding my book(s) to your Goodreads bookshelves.
Does it take time for me to verify this? It does. But if someone goes through these steps, I then know several things:
a.) how active they are on social media;
b.) how much they love books (judging by who they follow); and
c.) what types of books they read (ie, are they similar to what I write). Also, they now know where I am on social media, which puts them in the perfect position to share with their friends and followers what I share online.
3. Make them WANT to join your community. The more they want to be inside, the more likely they will support you, by chatting up your books, sharing your posts, retweeting your tweets and regramming your Instagram photos. How do you do this? You give them what they want. A behind-the-scenes look at your process. Sneak peeks of your works-in-progress. Advance announcements of deals and other news the general public won’t know for some time. Fun bits like daily-lines and cover concepts. All that good stuff you wouldn’t think about showing to the public but want to share with your posse.
4. Make sure they know WHY they are joining your community. While ARCs for Tikis (while supplies last), advance NetGalley access, giveaways, welcomes gifts and, recently, Happy Hours, where I open the virtual bar, shake up virtual cocktails, and we have book discussions, are nice perks inside the lounge, they aren’t the reason for my Tiki Lounge. I make it clear on the Tiki Lounge registration form that gaining access is to support me as an author. In fact, the form doesn’t submit unless they check mark an agreement to do so. Because, isn’t that the reason for a street team?
5. Market your street team to increase membership. You can do this through your social media accounts and newsletter. Schedule monthly or quarterly tweets and posts to increase awareness. What’s worked for me is including a “what’s happening inside the lounge” section in my Kerry’s Beach Club emails.
By structuring a street team as indicated above, I didn’t have to beg or coerce a single person to be on my team to hawk my wares. They came to me because they are interested in my books, and I’m absolutely grateful for every single Tiki.
And that, my friends, makes this sale-pitch shy marketing-loving author very happy indeed.
Do you have a street team and how have you structured it? When did you start your street team? How does your street team support you as an author?
Kerry Lonsdale believes life is more exciting with twists and turns, which may be why she enjoys dropping her characters into unexpected scenarios and foreign settings. She graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and is a founder of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, an online community of authors located around the globe. She resides in Northern California with her husband, two children, and an aging golden retriever who’s convinced she’s still a puppy.
Kerry’s debut EVERYTHING WE KEEP, releases August 1, 2016 from Lake Union Publishing. It is available TODAY as a July Kindle First selection. Kerry’s second novel, ALL THE BREAKING WAVES releases December 2016, and WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND, the sequel to EVERYTHING WE KEEP, releases summer 2017.
You can find Kerry here: