Monday, September 28, 2015

What is a Launch Team?

by Alycia W. Morales

Does your forehead wrinkle when you hear the words "Street Team" or "Launch Team"? Do you want to hide in a cave when someone mentions that you may need to help market your book?

Publishers don't have the extensive marketing budgets they used to have to help sell your novel. Although some do still assist with marketing, they also expect their authors to sell their own books. So what's an author to do if they don't have marketing experience?

Think of your book like you think of your baby (we already do that anyway, don't we?). When our children come into the world, what do we do?

First, we call everyone. Word of mouth is the best marketing tool out there. "Hey! Come celebrate with me! I just gave birth to this beautiful boy/girl/book!"

Then, we post pictures to our social networks. We blow up Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with proof that our newest addition is so darned cute we can hardly stand it. (Think memes.)

Some of us create photo announcements and mail them to our friends and family. Then they put them on their refrigerator doors so their friends can see them. (Think bookmarks, postcards, etc.)

Can you see the similarities?

There is one tool that many authors use to launch their books that not everyone seems to know about. Today, I'd like to share that tool with you. It's called a launch team. Launch teams are also known as street teams. You may have heard the term and thought, "What on earth is that?"

A launch team is a group of about 100 people who are going to help you make your book famous. Why 100? Think of it this way: When you host a "party" at your house, the hostess will ask you to invite 10 people for every 1 person you expect to show up. It's the nature of the thing. Of the 100 you invite to assist you, maybe 25 will be your key team players. The rest will still help, but they may have things come up that prevent them from being as active as another. Give them all grace. This group is going to be made up of family, friends, co-workers, faithful readers, bloggers, and more. Think smart when you choose your team. Here are a few things you want to look for in people who are going to participate:
  • A platform of some sort. They can have a large blog following, a thousand Facebook friends, or tens of thousands of Twitter followers. Or maybe not. Maybe they ...
  • Have a career that has something to do with your novel. Do you know a medical doctor who gave you advice on what to do when your character was pushed off a cliff? Do you know an FBI agent who gave you advice on an investigation procedure? These are people to consider asking to help you promote your book because maybe they're in your acknowledgements.
  • Is your neighbor's daughter your biggest fan girl? Maybe you have a follower across the world who is constantly commenting on your social media posts. That's a good person to have on your team, because they're going to blow up their social media feeds with your book.
  • Maybe you wrote a non-fiction book and need someone to help promote it. Have any study groups given your book a practice run and had life-changing results? They would be good people to ask to help you promote it.
Think outside the box. Yes, your mom will always be your biggest fan, and she's more than welcome to participate. But try to come up with people who can get word out to people you may not think of otherwise.

Once I have my 100-person team organized, what are they going to do for me?
Me Reading Firewall by DiAnn Mills
  • Read the free copy of your book that you or your publisher will provide them with. This can be in e-reader format (usually a PDF) or an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy - a print copy where edits are not finalized yet) or a copy of the final print version of the book. (Note: if it's a final copy and you are sending it out, it's always a blessing to the reader if you autograph the book before you send it. It's a great place to include a thank you.)
  • Blog about it. If your launch team member is a blogger, they should put up a review post on their blog with links to a variety of places the reader may purchase a copy of the book, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book Distributor (CBD), Parable, etc.
  • Post author interviews on their blogs. You can create a simple list of questions you're willing to answer, or they can come up with their own. You could even provide them with the entire interview so all they need to do is copy and paste it to their post.
  • Give it 4+ star reviews on the various book seller websites (see above list).
  • Review it on GoodReads.
  • Tell their friends and family about it. (Word of mouth is the best advertising ever!)
  • Give their local book store post cards or bookmarks that you will supply them with. Some publishers will design these for their authors. If yours won't (or you self-publish), you can design your own at VistaPrint. When the launch team member visits the store to drop these off, they'll check to see if your book is being sold there. If not, they may request that the store order copies for their shelves.
  • Many authors I've worked with have had their launch team assist them in creating an additional study guide for their readers. The launch team members have pulled information they've found helpful in the book and come up with a question or two or three for the author to expand on or offer as a reflection journal. 
  • Pray for you. Don't be afraid to ask them to pray for your success. Most are happy to do so.
  • Blow up their social media feeds with news of your book.
Again, think outside the box. What else could they do to help you spread the word? If your book is a novel, maybe they could recommend it for their book club. If your book is non-fiction, maybe they could recommend it for their women's study group or cell group study. Maybe you have someone super creative who loves your character so much they want to write a fan fiction piece to post on Tumblr... There is so much you can have them do to promote your book.

Here are a few more ideas for social media promotion:

A Meme I Created for Mary DeMuth's Everything Launch
  • Give your team a document they can copy and paste from. Create Twitter posts (140 characters or fewer), Facebook posts, and Google + posts.
  • Provide links to a bunch of free photos they can create memes with. Make sure you have permission to use the pictures. Maybe you're an amateur photographer and have some of your own they could use. Have them pull their favorite quotes from your book and create the memes to share on Instagram and Pinterest.
  • Have them create a special Pinterest board to share things related to your novel. Be sure they include your title in the creation of the board.

Finally, what am I going to do for my launch team members? After all, they are super amazing and helping me sell my book so I can earn my royalties.
  • Share your goals with them. Are you shooting for a best-seller list? Are you submitting for awards? Is there a certain number of books you want to sell in a period of time? Keep them posted so they can celebrate with you when you achieve these things.
  • Run contests for them to win prizes. Just like you would for your readers. Again, think outside the box. Amazon and Starbucks gift cards are great. We love those. But so are little handmade goodies that go with something in your novel or non-fiction book. Do you make jewelry? Knit? Paint? Draw? Do graphic art design? Be creative with your goodies. There is a lot you can do with little time and work involved that will be a huge blessing to your team.
  • Offer to answer their questions. Maybe they are dying to know where your character's name comes from. Maybe they want to know how to find the time to write 1,000 words a day. Your team doesn't have to be all about business. It can be relational as well, and that will keep the members motivated to help you.
  • Pray for them. Ask what they need prayer for once a week. This allows them to pray for one another, as well. 
  • Offer a copy of the book for them to give away on their blog. Many bloggers love to run contests for their readers.
  • Return the favor when it's their turn to launch a book.
Again, think outside of the box. What else can you do to bless those who've helped you?

Mom and Me With Our Tea Cups Promoting for Jessica Dotta
The key thing to remember is to treat others the way you would want to be treated. Communicate with your team. Let them know your expectations up front, but give them grace as well. If you do, you're bound to have a successful launch team.

Once you've successfully launched your book, be sure to follow up with your team every now and then. Let them know how things are going, what you've accomplished with their help, and when they can expect future projects to release with another opportunity to participate.

Finally, where would you center this team? The two formats I've seen used most are to either have a Yahoo Group for the launch team or to have a private Facebook group for the launch team. Personally, I like the Facebook groups better. It's easier for people to post and for me to find documents that have been uploaded and made available to the group.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below.

What is a "Street Team" for #writers? {Click to Tweet}

Launching a book? A few pointers on creating a successful launch team via @AlyciaMorales. {Click to Tweet}


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  3. Alycia, thanks for all the wonderful, helpful information on creating a launch team. Will keep this handy.


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