Alison Jones (@bookstothesky) is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations writing world-changing books. She also provides executive coaching, consultancy and training services to publishers. www.alisonjones.com
Last month I published my book, This Book Means Business: Clever ways to plan and write a book that works harder for your business. It was one of around 185,000 other books also published that month. How’s an author to stand out in a crowd that big?
My answer was to run a launch campaign focused on building a ‘street team’, a group of people who would not only buy the book on publication but enthusiastically tell the world about it. [Spoiler: it worked.]
Before you plan any launch campaign, it’s important to be clear on what you want it to achieve. For me, as for most business authors, it was less about revenue from the book sales and more about positive attention, building relationships, increasing professional visibility and promoting my business; if the book brought in just one or two major new clients that would be worth more than a year’s worth of an average book’s revenue.
But for me there was an extra dimension too, which was all about professional credibility – when you’re writing a book about writing a book to build your business to build your business, you can’t help but be very self-conscious about it! I needed to demonstrate to all the potential clients watching that my system worked and they could trust me with their own book and their own launch.
The plan worked: the book shot to #1 in three Amazon categories on launch, and is still regularly in the top 10 a month on. And so far it’s brought in three new clients, all as impressed by the splash it made as by the book itself. But just as importantly, it was FUN!
Here are my street team principles – I hope they’ll be useful to you too:
For me the people I wanted to involve in the launch process came naturally out of the Extraordinary Business Book Club Community. The podcast and my weekly newsletter attract exactly the people I want to work with, and creating a street team was a great opportunity to get to know people in the group better and engage them at a deeper level, because I was offering something of real value.
If you haven’t got a ready-made community, this is an opportunity to create one: look at your existing platform, identify where you’ve got the most traction, and start with that.
The whole basis of my launch process was a contract between each member of the street team and me as the author and publisher, and the basis of a contract is a mutual commitment to provide something the other party wants.
I wanted their support to get visibility, buzz and bestseller status, so I asked them to shout about the book on social media and in their networks and to buy a copy of the Kindle edition on launch day at the special price of 99p/99c. In return, I offered a print copy of the book with their name in it, a webinar setting out my launch process in detail, and, I hope, the fun of being involved in something interesting and cool. Luckily they felt it was a fair trade, and so did I: if one party feels they’re giving more than they’re getting, the relationship breaks down.
And it goes without saying that you must deliver, or if possible over-deliver, all the way. (I was less worried about checking up whether they did their bit, which some authors are very hot on. I left it to their conscience and karma and just got on with doing my bit.)
And finally, make it as easy as possible for people to do what you’ve asked. I created on-message quotes and images, and suggested different ways people could help – it can be surprisingly hard to write a post if you’re not sure exactly what to say, and it takes time and mental energy, it’s much easier to share something!
I originally planned to ask for an honest Amazon review as part of the deal, but then Amazon changed their policy, and it’s now against their rules to incentivize a review at all, in any way. Their policy is to take down reviews first and not bother asking questions later, so make sure that you don’t explicitly incentivize reviews in any way if you want them to stay up there. This has meant fewer reviews than I’d hoped (16, at time of writing), but they’re all 100% genuine and that’s a good feeling.
Building a community involves regular, consistent communication from the start. Involve them in choosing the cover, share the hell you’re going through as you finish the first draft, tell them about the hideous typo the proofreader spotted, ask their opinion on your launch outfit, post whenever you notice or learn something: if you share all those little milestones along the way with your community you build a sense of connection with and investment in the book. (Though don’t spam them, obviously.)
And think too about your communication channels: I used email and Facebook – because it’s the main home of my existing communities, and because it’s easy to post to a group – with a bit of Twitter and LinkedIn activity. I’m not good on Instagram, WhatsApp or Snapchat, but maybe one of those is your natural home. You can’t be everywhere, so in this and indeed in your social media strategy more generally, find the two or three channels that work best for you and your tribe and do it well.
One of the hands-down best reasons for a book launch is just to have a party. You have earned this. So enjoy the celebration yourself, and do everything you can to make sure that your street team enjoy it too.
But it’s not all about that one night, it’s important to celebrate the little wins along the way too. The first endorsement from a big name, the first Amazon review, hitting the number one slot: so many opportunities to celebrate with the community you’re was building up, and because they’ve been part of it these will be their successes too.
This doesn’t end on publication day. It’s like having a baby: I thought once I’d got through labour I could have a nice cup of tea and a rest, and it gradually dawned on me I wouldn’t get much of a rest for the next 18 years or so.
So don’t drop your street team like a hot brick once the book’s published: So long and thanks for all the tweets. Give them ways to continue to support your book and to engage with you. I sent out special offers to my street team, some are buying bulk copies of the book at discount to sell on in their networks, and several have set up affiliate codes so they get a cut when they introduce a new client.
So think long term, and keep the party going long after launch day.