Writing Help Street Teams

In this installment of writing help we will discuss street teams. What are street teams? It’s a term I’ve heard tossed about a couple times, and didn’t think much of it. It seemed like a “first looks” fans group for writers, and I figured that if people really wanted to know what was going on with their favorite authors, they would go like their pages and websites, right? I guess I’m wrong. I’ve recently read a blog post by my friend Leeland Artra who goes into depth about street teams. I’ve asked him if I could borrow his post, and he agreed. So here it is, I hope you enjoy this and that it helps you.

“Many amazing things have happened since I first published Thread Slivers. I’ve had what amounts to great success as an unknown author with only his first book out. I owned a successful business before, and I did apply all my marketing knowledge for the first publication. I treat my writing like a business and try to work at it like a second job. But, the most important marketing technique I applied was what I consider the Number One Golden Rule of Being Successful. That rule is (not so simply) seek out others who are already doing what you want to do successfully and study what they do, imitate them, ask them for advice, and use what works for you.

Yes, I have two bestselling novels out. My release newsletter subscribers list is approaching two thousand fans. I have over forty thousand followers on Twitter. And yet, I am still applying that golden rule. I still have a lot to learn to continue to grow my writing business.

It should not come as a surprise that only a week ago while listening to the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast I learned about a proven, hugely successful marketing tool that fans really love. This tool is called a Street Team.

I had never heard of a Street Team, and so I have been researching what one is, what other authors who have one are doing with it, and why some authors have purposefully chosen to not create a Street Team. From my point of view, a Street Team really is a blending of a marketing team and a fan club. The original Street Teams were called this because they were music group fans who would ‘hit the streets’ promoting a local event or product. When created and engaged, Street Teams, as a rule, have proven to be both very popular with fans, as well as, effective marketing tools with a better reach than ‘main stream’ marketing methods.

Street Teams are normally volunteer based and are rewarded with free merchandise, special promotional items (like signed posters), and some access to the artists they are promoting. Author Street Team members do what they can to help promote the author in various, sometimes unpredictable, ways, including:

  • placing stickers and posters in their communities
  • attending events where the author is participating as a speaker or having a book signing
  • convincing friends to buy the author’s books and merchandise
  • carrying bookmarks or business cards to hand out in public places like coffee shops and to other public transit commuters
  • going to local libraries and book stores requesting the author’s books be available
  • voting for the author’s books in contests and polls
  • resending the author’s announcements to all their friends
  • bringing the authors books (usually signed) to where they work to show to co-workers
  • posting to book forums and social media bulletin boards online
  • and many other things depending on the personality of the members

Fans, apparently, really enjoy being on the Street Teams because they want their favorite authors to continue writing new books. Further, being on the Street Team emboldens fans to be more forward when opportunities to promote an author arise. For example, when a popular blogger asks in a forum “Read any good books lately?” a typical fan might be intimidated by stepping up and suggesting the author’s books or simply gloss over the post because “other people will suggest something interesting.” However, a Street Team member, in such an instance, being on the lookout for such requests as a team member, would immediately step up to promote the author’s works.

If a team member succeeds in getting a blogger to write a review or an article about the author’s works, they feel extremely happy that they helped out directly. Even further, when the author acknowledges the contribution of members they again have a justifiable feeling of accomplishment. This encourages other team members to contribute even more by commenting on Facebook pages and blog posts in response and also mention the books in other message board forums, tweeting about the books and events, and voting for the books on Goodreads lists, etc.

Other successful author Street Teams have some interesting benefits too. For example:

  • being the actual editors and proofreaders for all new books (one indie author I heard from has 96 people on her Street Team that all do editing of her drafts within a week and a final proofread so that she no longer uses paid editors letting her release her book in only four weeks from finishing the rough draft.)
  • getting early (and usually free) access to new books
  • kibitzing on early book development work
  • holding contests inside the Street Team for various team created promotions. Meaning the team comes up with an event idea, figures it all out, gets approval from the author (or not), and then runs the event all without much more than an agreement from the author. (That this happens was a shocker to me.)

The Team member participation and rewards are as varied as the individuals that make up the teams. Some examples of actions are:

  • Suggest a mission for the week, which can be anything, such as trying to move a book up a certain number of places on a bestseller list, and then help the group get behind that.
  • When someone else suggests a mission, climb aboard and do what you can to help the team succeed in meeting that mission goal.
  • Team members stay active – they post reviews and cross post reviews on their own blogs and Facebook sites; they drive sales of a new release or raise interest in a book they think should have done better. As a result of that, they focus their efforts on reviewing, recommending, and talking about the author’s works.
  • Team members regularly use their browser and spend a minute or more repeatedly searching for the author’s name on key websites to bump search results.

Rewards are things like:

  • Bookmarks, the occasional book giveaways, prizes for friendly raffles, such as an eReader, if they were able to move a book to the top 100 sales rank.
  • Having access to your favorite author. For an avid group like this, being in the inner circle is perhaps the richest reward. Team members will get opportunities to tell me what character they might want to see a book of next, and if enough people want to see a specific character get his or her own book, I’ll consider that when I start to work on the next book.
  • A lot of reward is in just knowing that you’re keeping your favorite authors in the game. This seems to be one of the biggest parts of why team members devote so much time and imagination to their work.

In the end, the author gets really great interactions with an elite group of fans as well as a lot of great marketing. The team members get lots of neat swag as well as feeling really great about helping out one of their favorite authors. (Yes, many people that do this are on more than one Street Team.)

Do I want to try to do this? Heck yes. I’d love having more people to interact with early in the book creation process. I love getting to know all my BIG fans. Naturally, the increased visibility of my books would be really helpful in boosting sales to the level I can move to being a full time writer. In short, I think this would be a ton of fun.

One possible down side to this is that I have no control over what Team Members actually say or do. Someone on my team could end up being a real flamer or jerk to just the wrong person for a book chain or library system. However, I already have this problem. People who like my books are already promoting them, and at least with the Street Team, there can be the threat of “being blocked” due to something inappropriate. Street Team members are not actually given “authority to speak for the author.”

Finally, I would have to put some time into managing and interacting with the Street Team. Overall, this is not really a loss to me, as I see it as a means to move to being a full time writer.”

I would like to thank Leeland for allowing me to use this post today. If you aren’t a fan of Leeland’s yet, stop by his website and check him out!

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