Pssst, indie authors! Can I share a secret with you? Lean in, lean in. Closer...closer...TOO CLOSE! You need a TicTac.
Just kidding. You smell delightful.
Okay, breath issues aside, let's talk about something critical to the self-pub life: launch teams. Yes, you heard it right. Forget the self in self-publishing, because the road to literary success is not a solitary journey, it’s a communal road trip. To drive that point home (pun very much intended), let's delve into the power of launch teams and how they can take your self-publishing journey from a lonely hike to a full-blown festival caravan.
Now, before I wax poetic about the virtues of launch teams, let's establish some definitions, shall we? What is a launch team? In the simplest of terms, a launch team (also known as a street team) is a group of dedicated volunteers who support an author during the book release period. Imagine a lively cheerleading squad, but instead of pom-poms, they’re waving books, and instead of cheers, they’re writing reviews, sharing social media posts, and spreading the good news about your book far and wide. Sounds pretty awesome, right?
I know what you're thinking. "Sure, a cheerleading squad sounds nice, but what's the real impact? It’s not like they’re going to perform a pyramid formation on my book launch day!" First of all, you'd be surprised at what a motivated launch team can accomplish.
When it comes to self-publishing, your biggest challenges often include obscurity and the absence of an established platform. And from my decade-plus experience in Amazon book marketing, I can tell you this: a robust, engaged launch team can be more effective than a blitzkrieg of ads or a lone author's desperate attempts to beg friends and family to buy (or even READ) their book. A launch team acts as an extended network, helping your book permeate social circles and reader communities that you, as a solo act, could never reach.
Now that we've established the why, let's talk about the how. I'm talking "Avengers, assemble!" level organization here. Building a launch team can seem as daunting as penning your first novel. More so, because most of us authors are solitary enough we make Gollum look like the Homecoming King. So, where do you start?
First and foremost, start with your circle. Your friends, family, coworkers, your dog's Instagram followers (hey, don't laugh, Chuckles the Wonder Dog could have a significant reach), basically anyone you can think of who might be interested in supporting you. Let them know about your project and how they can help. You may be pleasantly surprised at the number of people willing to offer their assistance.
Now, make no mistake, I'm not suggesting you rope your Great Aunt Edna into posting on TikTok (although, if Aunt Edna is game, perhaps willing to engage in a bit of tasteful nudity,* who am I to stand in her way?). Be mindful of the platforms and methods that best suit your potential team members.
In some cases, this might mean offering multiple ways to participate. For instance, your millennial cousin might be a whiz at Instagram stories, while your old college roommate has a large Facebook network. Tailoring your approach to the strengths and comfort zones of your team members can be a game-changer.
But, what if your circle isn't quite...circley enough? Not to worry! There are other avenues to explore. Fan groups of similar authors, genre-specific reader groups on social media, and writing forums can all serve as fertile ground to recruit enthusiastic team members. Remember, these folks are already invested in your genre and are likely to be more than willing to help a new author make their mark.
But the best way, of course, is to reach out to your own fans. If you've taken my Bestseller Life courses, you know that the #1 marketing tool any author can have is their mailing list...and that's where you'll get the best groupies to pimp your books to their friends. Most CRMs (that's Customer Relations Managers) will have analytics, so you can find out which folks are most engaged, click the most, buy the most. Reach out to them and find out if they'd be interested in helping!
But once you've got 'em, what do you DO with 'em? Well, let's find out!
First things first, communication is key. Regular updates, a clear strategy, and a sense of camaraderie can go a long way towards keeping your team engaged. This might mean setting up a Facebook group, an email chain, or even a weekly Zoom call. The goal is to make them feel a part of the journey, not just an observer. Transparency about your process and excitement for your book can be infectious.
But let's not forget the elephant in the room. Or should I say, the book in the room? Everyone knows one of the perks of being in a launch team is getting a sneak peek at the book. But what if I told you this is about more than just placating your team with freebies? It’s also about ensuring they can authentically promote and review your work.
In my experience, authentic promotion is far more impactful than any rehearsed elevator pitch. Give your team access to an early or advance copy of your book. Let them connect with your words. Their genuine enthusiasm will shine through when they promote it, making their efforts all the more effective.
Next, let's talk tasks. Break down what you need your team to do into digestible actions. Leave no room for ambiguity. This could include posting honest reviews, sharing promotional posts on social media, or spreading the word to their friends and family. Remember, the key to effective delegation is clarity.
Oh, and don't forget to say thank you. A little gratitude goes a long way in keeping the morale high. Exclusive author Q&As, signed copies of your book, shout-outs in the acknowledgement section – these are all great ways to make your team feel appreciated.
Despite the grand plans and organized approach I've outlined, be prepared for things to go sideways. Maybe your launch doesn't go as planned, or perhaps Aunt Edna does end up posting that TikTok,** and it's less of a hit than you thought it would be.
It's okay. Embrace the chaos, learn from it, and remember, every indie author faces setbacks. You're in good company. Or at least, you're in MY company. But beggars can't be choosers.
* That was a joke. No one needs to see Aunt Edna like that. Ever.
** No, Aunt Edna! Nooooooooooooo!
I'm Michaelbrent Collings, an international bestseller and produced screenwriter, as well as a multiple Bram Stoker Award and Dragon Award finalist, and maker of a fair-to-middling chocolate chip waffle.
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