January 9th, 2019

Want Authorly Superpowers? Build a Street Team!

Angela Ackerman

Can we all agree that launching a book can be…a bit terrifying?

I’ve released six with co-author Becca Puglisi and we’re about to launch book seven. Those figurative butterflies? Yeah, they never go away. But guess what--this is actually a good thing! A touch of nerves keeps us alert, more apt to be prepared, and will cause us to think deeper about marketing methods that make a book launch easier.

On that note, one of the smartest marketing moves is to build a Street Team. This group of excited and highly motivated individuals have one important mission: to help you, the author, succeed.

Here’s a few things they might do:

  • Help brainstorm a marketing launch plan for a book
  • Mention any influential connections they have and offer to be the go-between
  • Share links, graphics, and content tied to the book to interest potential readers
  • Reach out to a library they use to bring in the book (and then reserve and read it)
  • Offer up their own blog for a “takeover,” pointing their visitors to the author’s launch event
  • Be an early ARC reader (to find any last-minute typos that may need fixing)
  • Be an ARC reviewer, ensuring online reviews are building up quickly at release
  • Blog a book review (that can then be shared by the author now and in the future)
  • Offer to help organize and host marketing initiatives (like host a Twitter chat)
  • Interview the author on a blog or have them as a guest on their podcast
  • Vlog a book review (so the video can be shared)
  • Purchase the book at a strategic time/date so it will most benefit the author
  • Review the book at key online sites (Goodreads, Amazon, etc.)
  • Offer a guest post spot to the author to blog on a topic that ties into the book
  • Share the author’s site, interviews, blog content, etc. to help raise their profile
  • Mention the book’s release to newsletter subscribers or even offer a giveaway
  • Promote launch event festivities and encourage others to participate (entering giveaways, joining discussions that are topic-focused, etc.)
  • Use a specific hashtag for the launch that will draw attention to the event
  • Be a champion for the book, recommending it and adding it to relevant lists for discoverability
  • Help with coordinating real-world launch activities (a launch party, book signings, etc.)
  • And much more. What a Street Team can do is only limited by an author’s imagination!

Building a team is a great idea for so many reasons. The most obvious is that an author can only do so much and create only so large of an impression on their own. But, with an enthusiastic group, they can do much more and reach a greater circle of potential readers.

Each team member is also unique and collectively will have a range of connections, experiences, knowledge, and abilities. They may offer new marketing ideas to try and point the author toward influencers, tools, resources, and sites that may also help.

Finally, the Street Team is the author’s secret weapon when it comes to visibility and discoverability. In our promotion-saturated world, potential readers are bombarded with buy my book! messaging and will have little patience for more of it. Having others promote the book respectfully means doing less self-promotion. 

Let’s Talk About Impostor’s Syndrome, Shall We?

The idea of gathering a street team can seem intimidating. In our brains we think, Gosh, who would want to help me? It’s a lot of work, people are already short on time, I’m not a big name author or anything...and on and on it goes. Freaking Impostor’s Syndrome!

FACT: there are people who care, who want to help us, and who are willing to be our book champions. Ask yourself these questions:

Are there writers you’ve become friendly with that you want to succeed?

Do you have family, friends, and online connections that you’d help if it meant they could follow their passions?

Have you loved a book so much that if an opportunity arose to help the author launch the next one, you’d jump at it?

I’m betting you answered yes to at least two of these which means you’re building authentic relationships with others. Relationships go both ways, so I bet if you ask, people will join your Street Team.

If you’re like me, asking is always the hard part. I love to help others but asking for it in turn? So hard. I have some wounds in this department but I refuse to let that stop me so I ask. You should too.

Build It and They Will Come (2 Steps)

Step 1: Well in advance of a book launch (2-3 months), put out a call for help. Becca and I do this on our blog. We explain we’re launching a book and could really use help. I give some information and provide a sign-up form. Here’s a link to my latest Will You Help? post so you can see how I set this up.

TIP: Click on the form to see what I ask people and how I request permission to use their emails to communicate to comply with GDPR. (And hey, if you like, feel free to sign up. I’d love that!)

ANGELA’S BIG TIP: In the form you’ll notice I ask an optional question about marketing ideas. Do this. It is a great way to find out who has unique talents or connections and to discover new marketing ideas.

WARNING: You’ll notice in the post link above that I don’t give information about the book we’re releasing. Don’t do this UNLESS you have a good reason for doing so AND you have a strong established base of readers. (In our case, the mystery element of the book release is important, but for most launches it won’t be. You will absolutely want people to know about the book you are releasing!) For reference, here’s another Will You Help Us? post for a different launch and we do share information.

Step 2: After you announce you’re creating a street team, share the link on your social channels, wherever you interact with people who love and support what you do. Becca and I share links on Twitter, Facebook, in our newsletter, etc. If you like, ask friends and family to help because the people closest to us are often the most excited to help. Share off and on leading up to your launch because even if people join later, they can still help.

TIP:  Offer your street team members something for helping like a free book copy, a fun street team prize draw, or something else that they can use or will appreciate. Becca and I give away free education via a “Street Team only” writing webinar. 

ANGELA’S BIG TIP: Join someone else’s street team before starting your own. Managing a team effectively is a post in its own and you can learn much by doing. Pay attention to how another author utilizes their team’s superpowers. It will give you ideas on how to work with your own team.

Interested in learning more about street teams and how to run a successful event?

Visit this resource page at Writers Helping Writers. Under the marketing section you’ll find an Insider webinar interview where Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator and I deconstruct a book launch for the Rural and Urban Setting Thesaurus she took part in. We also have a powerful SWIPE FILE that shares our Street Team email communication, marketing strategy for the launch, and examples of graphics and content I asked my team to share. It’s basically a window into street teams and successful book launches. I hope it helps!

Have you ever created a street team to launch a book, or participated in another’s team for their launch?

Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, as well as five others. Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop for Writers, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

24 responses to “Want Authorly Superpowers? Build a Street Team!”

  1. Laura Drake says:

    Outing myself here, Angela. Though I have dedicated readers, who many times, share my posts and hand sell my books to their friends, I could never have a street team. Yep, Imposter's syndrome. I'm good with marketing, have a decent platform, and love social media.

    But the thought of asking someone to do this? Squirming, big time.

    I know it can be wonderful, and sell books, but it's one step I can't see myself ever making.

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      Laura, Jill, Fae & Terry,

      I totally hear you on this, I do. Asking for help with marketing can be very "outside the comfort zone." It's this exact reason that I really wanted to write this post, because for me Impostor's Syndrome was keeping me from a lot of things, including doing right by Becca and marketing our books properly.

      As I mentioned in the post, asking for help is something that is very difficult for me. Growing up I always felt I didn't have anyone in my corner--no one to advocate for me. Being disappointed time and again taught me to not rely on others who wouldn't come through and dealing with family who couldn't say yes unconditionally to even the smallest request taught me it's better to just not ask. I got used to just trying to do everything myself.

      But as we know, everything is easier with help. This is why we have critique partners. Why we join writing associations. Why we form writing communities. It's why we form a group blog (like this one) instead of going it alone. 🙂

      When I started down this path, so much was outside my comfort zone: asking for critique feedback. Submitting to agents. Public speaking. Marketing and promotion. Putting myself out there as an expert. Yikes. I still struggle. But what would have happened if I hadn't gotten over these fears? If I didn't seek out critique partners I wouldn't have met Becca. If I hadn't found the courage to submit to agents, I would have never found one. If I avoided public speaking, I would have never found the joy in teaching all over the world. Marketing and promotion was another hurdle, but I found ways to do what feels right for me and that will help Becca and I grow our readerships. One of these things was learning how to ask for help at launch time.

      What I discovered when I did ask was overwhelming enthusiasm - people were actually happy I'd asked! I think because Becca and I offer a lot of free help people tend to appreciate it but some were also feeling like they were taking advantage (and of course they were not). But the psychologically ingrained premise of reciprocity left them feeling like they wanted to do something kind in return. Asking for help gave them a way to do this.

      Honestly, I still struggle with asking for help. It makes me feel vulnerable. But I also can relate to how it would feel if someone always helped me and never allowed me a way to do something in return. So now, even though it makes me uncomfortable, I ask.

      I think the other big thing that comes with asking others for help when it comes to marketing and promotion is to make sure you never ask anyone to do something you yourself won't do. So for example, I always ask my ST to be careful when they post links of ours or images, to make sure that they are being shared with audiences that will find the offering of interest. I wouldn't spam people and I wouldn't want my ST members to either. I also make sure that whatever I share or ask others to do holds some value to everyone involved. If I am running a blog takeover, it's because we're doing a big giveaway that writers will find valuable. If I ask someone to share links, it is to something that my (and the ST's) readership would be interested in. I try to avoid direct promotion whenever I can.

      I think each of you needs to do what feels right for you, which may or may not involve testing the waters with a street team to help you at launch time. But I do hope you'll keep your minds open to the idea that very likely you guys connect with others online and off that care about you, want to see good things happen for you, and would probably love to show this through reciprocity but may not know how. 🙂

      Asking for what we need runs against the grain, I know--it makes most of us feel squidgy and uncomfortable. But put the shoe on the other foot - if you had a friend who needed help, wouldn't you want them to tell you what they need?

      And apologies for taking so long to respond. I was in Mexico when this went up and for some reason when I tried to comment I would get security warnings and was unable to comment. (I think this was just a result of being in a different country, not anything nefarious. I landed about an hour ago and am back in North America, and I'm able to comment, so woohoo!)

      • Kim says:

        Thank you Angela, and Laura, and everyone. I haven't even written my book yet, so I'm nowhere near ready for finding an agent and publishing and marketing... somedays I freak out and go 'I'll never make it!' and other days I'm like 'I can do this!'. This post, and its accompanying comments has both opened my eyes and freaked me out a little. I'll still write. I will always write. And I definitely do want to publish (if I can). I just now know a little more of the realities behind it. So, thank you.

        • angelaackerman1 says:

          The huge irony of the necessity of marketing is that 90% of writers are uncomfortable about doing it, largely because we tend to be introverted and struggle with "putting ourselves out there." This of course makes the hurdle of asking for feedback on our work hard, writing query letters (and OMG talking to an agent in person!) hard, asking for book reviews hard, and all the rest.

          None of this is easy. How I wish it was. But as someone who was terrified of so much of this I can honestly say just taking it a bit at a time and slowly expanding your comfort zone will pay off in time. We start to meet challenges tied to this career a bit differently, and while it's never easy to try something new, step out onto a platform, or put our emotions out there, it does get easier because we look back and see all the small challenges we overcame and how we're grown. The realization that we've come a long way gives us strength to keep going and growing. 🙂

          Go slow and take on small challenges. You are so much more capable than you might believe, I promise! You've got this! 🙂

  2. I'm in your camp, Laura. I'm fortunate to have some great friends through my blog who write reviews and mention my books without my asking. I break out in a sweat thinking about asking someone to write a review...yikes!

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      Hi Jill! I left a group message under Laura's first comment as a few of you have the same struggles and feelings about this part of the marketing wheel. I hope it helps!

  3. Fae Rowen says:

    Oh, Angela. When I first heard about street teams, I thought, "What a great idea!" But I'm with Laura. To ask people to be my publicists and marketeers freaks me out. While the idea of working with them is interesting, the "scary" overpowers any other aspect.

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      HI Fae! I left a group message under Laura's first comment as you were feeling similarly. Thanks for chiming in--I hope this provides some food for thought. 🙂

  4. Terry Odell says:

    Have to agree with Laura, Jill, and Fae here. The closest I ever get is asking for beta readers or Early Readers (hoping they'll pass the word and leave reviews), but it fizzles, and I'm not willing to spend the time to follow through. I'm indie published, and 95% of my sales are digital. I've burned out on doing much more than sending a newsletter for new releases, and using my FB page and Twitter to tell people it's there.

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      Hi Terry, I agree, we need to manage our time when in comes to marketing, because the writing always needs to be front and center so we can build a body of work. I left a group message under Laura's first comment to address the way it feels to engage a ST, so I hope you'll have a read. 🙂

  5. Jane says:

    Oooh, I like this. I've considered trying to build a street team. It's mostly just a dream at this point, because I still haven't decided if I'm even going to publish yet. I do have a question though. I have a lot of friends and extended family who I'm sure would be very enthusiastic and eager to help, but I've been let down before. More than once. When I ask people to beta read for me, they're always really excited, but then they don't give their feedback to me for a REALLY long time! I also don't have that big of a platform right now, so friends and family are the only people I can really count on to sign up for anything. The problem is, I'm not really sure how much they'd follow through with it. Any advice?

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      Yes, getting people to follow through can be a bit of a struggle, and you will always get some who will not. What I do is be very clear on what the objective is, and what I am asking them to do. I use forms so people can "sign up" for what they wish to help with, and then I check in as we do to make sure people have what they need, and if it is reviews, I send out a gentle reminder to review by a specific time if possible. I know some people who specifically ask for someone's link to goodreads or amazon for book reviews so they can watch for when it goes up. I would like to say that this isn't necessary, but sometimes it might be. For example, if I send out 50 ebook arcs, I used to only get 30 reviews. I am now a bit more insistent because I may have 100 or more people asking to review an arc. It's not fair to the people who don't receive the arc if someone who did receive it doesn't follow through.

      I think also good communication about the importance of something is also important. People who are not authors may not get why you really need that book review and especially at the start when a book first goes up. They assume they can just put it up whenever and that you'll have lots of others. So it's important that we explain why each review is critical and getting those first 25 -50 reviews is key. Then they'll more likely get their review up in a timely way. 🙂

      The other thing I recommend is to join a street team or two yourself. Once you see how others manage communication with their teams and what they ask for (and how) it will help you see how to manage your own team. 🙂

  6. Kim says:

    Slight confusion on my part. If you're getting published by a big name house, shouldn't they be doing all that for you? Don't they have their own street teams that are already working for you?

    • Laura Drake says:

      Kim, I'm NY published, and yes, they do A LITTLE. They get you into blogs you couldn't get into on your own, they try to get you reviews at the big places (library mags, Publishers Weekly, etc), and they set up ARC giveaways on Netgalley. But unless you're Stephen or Nora or J.K., that's about it. They have a lot of others' books as well, and don't have time to set up street teams.

      That said, my publisher is considered one of the best with promo. So I think that shows you...

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      This is a common misconception, and Laura's right on the money here. Publishers do a little but the lion's share of the marketing work will be up to the author. That's why it doesn't matter if we are traditionally published or self-published--we need to learn to get comfortable with doing some marketing in both cases.

  7. Maggie Smith says:

    Angela, I tried to follow your instructions to get to the Jennie Nash podcast about how she worked on your street team but can't find the link of "marketing" on your site - can you expand your directions or provide the actual link?

  8. dholcomb1 says:

    I've seen some over-the-top things authors want readers do to promote a book. Not driving around with a huge magnet on my car door for you.

    d

  9. […] Ackerman recommends building a street team to help with your book launch, and Merry Jones looks at book marketing for authors—wearing […]

  10. Barb says:

    Sorry. I hate the very idea of a street team. This does not work for me.

    • angelaackerman1 says:

      No worries--that's the great thing about the business of being an author--we can all use different methods of reaching our audience. 🙂

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