Whether you’re publishing your first novel or your fifteenth, a great launch is critical to the success of any book.
But sometimes things don’t go quite as planned.
So what went wrong? Maybe groundswell wasn’t there. Maybe your marketing didn’t go far enough. Maybe your launch party wasn’t as well-attended as you’d hoped. But for whatever reason, your novel seemed to fizzle when it hit bookstore shelves instead of explode.
If you want to avoid this fate in the future, you need a street team—a group of dedicated and enthusiastic fans who band together in support of your writing.
What Is a Street Team?
The concept of a street team originated with smaller music labels’ efforts to promote punk and gangsta rap in the days before digital music sales. They got groups of organized fans to “hit the streets” to promote their favorite artists, handing out demo tapes and promotional materials at their local music stores, concert venues, and in their neighborhoods.
You can apply this same structure to promote yourself and your books. When organized correctly, a book street team can be a truly mighty promotional tool, bringing to bear the strength of word-of-mouth marketing to boost your visibility in markets you never could have tapped into on your own.
Still not convinced? Check out our top 3 reasons why building a street team can raise your profile in the literary world, get publicity for your book, and make your next book’s launch an explosive success:
1. Grassroots Book Marketing
Say your debut novel hits bookstores one month from now. Your main goal for the next 30 days should be to get the word out.
In order for your book’s launch to be the success it deserves, you need as many people as possible to know about you and your book. You need groupies. You need butts in seats at your launch party. You need advance review copies (ARCs) of your book in friendly hands.
You need a grassroots revolution centered on you and your novel—and assembling a street team is the perfect way to get started.
Much like the punk rock groupies of yore, literary street teams can build groundswell by handing out promotional materials—in this case bookmarks and fliers—as well as by posting reviews and book recommendations online, requesting your book from their local libraries and bookstores, and simply talking up your novel via word of mouth.
2. Cost-Effective Book Marketing
If you didn’t have a street team the last time you released a book, you probably spent way too much on marketing.
Street teams are extremely economical marketing tools simply because you don’t pay them. By putting avid fans to work spreading the word about your book, you save money and reap the benefits of commanding an army of loyal and enthusiastic spokespeople.
Consider the concept’s origins: the small music labels and music acts of the ’90s started using street teams to promote their albums because they couldn’t compete in a market dominated by the bigger labels. Since they couldn’t afford to pay their “street soldiers,” they rewarded their helpers’ efforts in other ways—with concert tickets, backstage access, and facetime with their favorite new musicians.
You’ve probably got swag you can give your loyal helpers, too—bookmarks, event tickets, merch, and signed copies of your books—but what your fans really want from you doesn’t cost you a cent…
3. Access—or, the Benefits of a Few Stalkers
There’s a good reason street teams are also commonly referred to as “reader groups” or “fan clubs.” No matter if you’re using a mailing list, Facebook page, or author web site, you can leverage the same platform you use to organize your street team to hobnob with your fans.
After all, a good book can forge a strong bond between readers and the authors they love. Your readers want to know you, and know more about you—and you, benevolent superstar that you are, can reward the hardworking members of your street team with access to you and to your writing process.
Be social with your readers. Talk to them online. Answer their questions. Comment on their fan-fiction. Ask them for ideas for names of characters, poll them on what your hero should do in a sticky situation, post small selections of works-in-progress where only your superfans can read them.
Do what you can to cultivate a cult of personality, and engage your public on as many fronts as possible.
The end result of all this?
Not only will you expand and engage your fan base … not only will you raise your profile in the literary community …
… but your fans may recommend your book over another simply because they feel like they know you.
How to Start a Street Team: Some Assembly Required
Ready to put a street team to work promoting your next book, but aren’t sure how to get the ball rolling?
Never fear! Our proven 4-step system will talk you through every phase of the process, and you’ll have a legion of loyal fans talking up your next big novel in no time.
1. Create Your Street Team Hub
Every street team needs a homepage. This can be an invite-only Facebook group, a special add-on to your author page accessible only by login, or something unique that you come up with. The point is that it shouldn’t be visible to just anybody—after all, exclusivity is part of the reason people want to join your team in the first place!
Think up a catchy name for your team—ideally something that doesn’t have to do with just one of your books, so you can use the page for multiple “campaigns.” Some examples include bestselling author Jennifer Probst’s Probst’s Posse, or you could take the name of a group from your fictional world, like The Council or The Fellowship.
No matter how you organize your team, make sure you add a clear description to your page! Tell your team members what the page is for, what they’ll be asked to do—and, most importantly, what goodies they can expect to get in return.
2. Start Close to Home
When you begin building your street team, choose your founding members carefully. These chosen few will be largely responsible for setting the tone and culture of the team, so you’ll want them to be as closely aligned with your goals as possible. Family members and close friends make good ground-floor volunteers, and you can build your base from there.
3. Craft Your Welcome Package
Never send your street team out in the field unarmed!
Once you’ve assembled your founding members, send each one a welcome packet. This should include:
- A “Badge”: Some physical indicator of exclusive membership. This can be a signed bookmark, a wristband, or even a literal badge.
- Instructions: A list of tasks your footsoldiers can do to help promote your book, like writing reviews, tweeting about your latest project, or requesting that libraries near them purchase your book.
- Promotional Materials: Any physical objects your street team members can hand out to help spread the word. Think fliers, bookmarks, postcards, or even single-sheet samples of your writing.
4. Stay On Top of Things
Organization is the key to maintaining an effective book street team. While your fans are out on the street, you need to keep tabs on their progress. If you have a website, tracking your site metrics can be an excellent measure of your team’s accomplishments.
Consider using weekly challenges or random drawings to encourage your fans and keep them accountable at the same time. And always keep a spreadsheet with each street team member’s up-to-date contact information.
BONUS ROUND: Create Your Own Affiliate Program to Sell Your Books
Before you run off to start rounding up your book street team, consider this:
If you assemble a strong street team, you’ll already have an army of helpers promoting your book. Why not put them to work selling it, too?
You can accomplish this using an affiliate program: a system that pays a commission whenever somebody recommends your book—and that recommendation results in a sale.
Affiliate programs are a wonderful system for boosting your sales, and participation encourages your street team by rewarding hard work with hard cash.
And the best part? After you set up the system, very little work is required on your part… or theirs. All your affiliates need do is host a link to your book catalogue on their own webpages, and if another user clicks that link and buys your book, the system pays a commission (determined by you—either a percentage of the sale or a flat rate) to the affiliate.
While dozens of affiliate networks and platforms exist, we recommend ShareASale for authors thanks to their low startup and transaction fees.
In addition, ShareASale provides merchants on their platform with a variety of integrated services that can help establish and build your affiliate program, including instructions for recruiting campaigns, promotional ad banners, and affiliate tools like videos and widgets.
Still hungry for more information on promoting your books? Take a gander at these articles:
- 5 Reasons You Absolutely Need an Author Press Kit
- 10 Ways to Increase Your Book Sales and Earn More Money as an Author
- How to Host Book Signing Events in Bookstores to Promote Your Books
As a Senior Editor at TCK Publishing, Jacob Mohr relishes the opportunity to work closely with the authors of tomorrow, creating new stories and exciting possibilities—and making the world a little more awesome, one book at a time.
When he’s not editing someone else’s writing, Jacob can usually be found reading Stephen King, riding rollercoasters, or crafting his own stories.