The Power of the Crowd: 7 Strategies to Maximize Your Book Launch Team
A launch team is one of the most significant assets you can build in preparation for your book’s launch. By strategically harnessing the power of your fans, you create a ripple effect around every marketing tactic you execute.
I love this quote from Joe Tripodi, former Chief Marketing Officer at Coca-Cola: “Awareness is fine, but advocacy will take your business to the next level.”
Tripodi’s point is this: you can raise awareness for your upcoming book all day long, but unless you equip your most enthusiastic fans to be true advocates for the product, it will not hit the next level of success.
So how do you equip people to be advocates for your book? How do you find and empower people who will champion it every step of the way and amplify your message…?
The answer: a launch team.
A launch team–also called a street team–is a marketing idea that began in the music industry. It means rallying a small army of your most ardent fans to “hit the streets” and market your product. There is no more powerful marketing weapon than fired-up people with a mission and the tools to carry it out.There is no more powerful marketing weapon than fired-up people with a mission and the right tools. Click To Tweet
A launch team at its most basic is a group of devoted readers and fans–anywhere from ten to 500 in number–who are assembled online. They are incentivized to be ambassadors for the book and given specific tasks that set them up as on-the-ground marketers to augment the author’s promotional campaign.
These days, most launch teams are organized and motivated through a private Facebook group. This is the sole medium for communication and equipping. The launch team manager (either the author him/herself, someone on the author’s team, or a marketer at the publishing house) generally tasks the launch team with some or all of the below tactics:
- Social media sharing
- Amazon reviews
- Strategic blogging
- “On the ground” in-store promotion
Wondering how you start a launch team? The first step is to get word to your people–your most loyal followers–that you need them. If you’re in the early stages of platform development, if might be all you can do to get 15 or 20 people on the team, and if that’s the case, that’s awesome.
If you have a more widely established platform, though, set up the “join the launch team” opportunity as an application process, creating a sense of scarcity and a little competition. Allow people to apply, and then choose the top 50 or 100 or 200 (however many you’d like!), based on their social media reach, physical location, enthusiasm, etc.
I’ve coached and executed launch teams for both big-time authors and first-time authors, and regardless of platform size, the strategies for success are the same.
Here are seven strategies to maximize your book launch team:
1- Provide “behind the scenes” access. Giving your biggest fans a sneak peek into your life can be the biggest incentive you could ever offer them. Let them know that through the launch team, they’ll get special access to you. They’ll see the “behind the scenes” into your book process, and they’ll be the first to get to read it and know each step of its progress. Make these people feel special by offering an otherwise off-limits level of intimacy and familiarity. If you’re a newer author, you’ll have to be extra engaged with the team via Facebook. If you’re a more established author, it’s appropriate and wise to have an assistant run the team, but I’d still recommend that you personally be engaged and communicate often. The best launch teams form because the author’s involvement creates a feeling of strong relationship.
2- Start at least 60 days out. It’s important to have the launch team in place with adequate time to establish team norms and create strong momentum in anticipation of launch day. As with any group–online or offline–it takes time to create standards and processes, time for people to build this into their weekly routine and take on roles within the group. (Believe me, they will definitely take on roles. People will stand out as the leader or the talker or the motivator… it’s awesome.) Allowing two months to build excitement and drive their enthusiasm will be significant.
3- Provide (hard) copies of the book. Each launch team member has to have a copy of the book. This is a given. And the more “special” their copy is, the better. Maybe they get it super early. Maybe it’s signed, maybe it has “behind the scenes” info in it, or maybe it comes with a note from you. Regardless of the “extras,” I recommend mailing a physical copy of the book to each person. Doing so is more costly than digital, so if you’re pinching pennies, sharing a PDF of the book can be an option. I will tell you, though: I’ve seen that a hard copy fosters more excitement, and it’s easier for people to share with the real thing in their hands.
(Note: Publishers or agents might push back on this idea, saying that you’re losing hot buyers by giving the book to them. But actually, it’s the opposite! I have found that these people end up buying multiple copies for friends and family, even with a free version already in their possession. You’re not missing out on potential sales; you’re creating leverage for more.)
4- Communicate consistently. As I said above, the most effective launch teams feel connected to you (the author) and one another. Two major triggers for them to participate are empathy (they know you and feel known by you) and community (they enjoy the camaraderie in the team and feel it’s a bigger “movement” around your message). These two elements can be intentionally achieved through consistent communication with the team. I recommend being in touch with the group at least 4-5 days per week to start out, and as things begin to unfold, that could end up being 4-5 times per day. Communicate to let them know you, to fire them up, and to ask them questions that get them talking to you and to one another. Extended periods of silence are risky.
5- Share the big moments like crazy! Create momentum and organic buzz by sharing the moments of success along the course of your book launch. We’re all motivated by what’s working, so let your “on the street” people know their efforts are working! If your book gets a major media hit or a big-time blogger posts about your book, tell the launch team. If your Amazon ranking starts to take off in specific categories, let ‘em know! Celebrate with them, and then equip them to share the cool news as well, through a photo or link. Your enthusiasm will fuel theirs.
6- Make it easy. It’s all about ease. Make promotion and sharing as simple and straightforward as possible for your launchers. Tell them specifically what your expectations are and how they can help. Give them links, photos, and videos to share. Offer them memes to post and quotes to say. Provide designed images with lines from the book or use clicktotweet.com, which makes it super easy for people to tweet specific messaging. Ambiguous, multi-step instructions will not be effective. Remember that these are busy people with lives and stresses of their own. Equip them with everything they need to get the ripple effect going in one or two quick minutes.
7- Solicit honest reviews. Amazon reviews are extremely powerful. Studies show that social proof is a real thing; people are more likely to buy when they see that a great many others before them have already bought. For this reason, it’s important to get reviews up early, and your launch team is your ready-made army for this. Ask them to post a review in exchange for the free book, and encourage them to be honest. Inauthentic, canned reviews can be spotted from a mile away, and they’ll damage your brand significantly.
I’d encourage you to think early and strategically about a launch team. It’s a sure-fire way for any author to build buzz throughout the course of a book campaign, and it’s an awesome way to launch and celebrate as a community. I have heard authors say that their launch team makes them feel like they’re not alone.
One final tip: be super generous in what you offer the team. As you plan out your incentives, don’t hold back. Bring on the value. If you have pre-order freebies, give them to your launch team too. If you have buy bonuses, give them to your launch team too. Make your launchers feel like major VIPs. They more you give, the more they’ll give.
There are so many more launch team tactics that I could tell you about, but I’ll wrap it up. Instead of continuing on with more strategies, I’d like to point you toward an incredible brand new resource out there that every author should get. (Note: I’m not affiliated with this product in any way, and I’m not making money off this endorsement. I’m sharing it purely because I think this a killer resource from one of the best in the business at building and managing successful launch teams.)
The product? Daniel Decker’s FREE how-to guide called Learn How To Help Your Book or Product Become a Bestseller by Leveraging the Power of a Launch Team.
Decker has led hundreds of launch teams for very successful books. I hired him often when I was at Thomas Nelson because I knew he would hit it out of the park every time. This free launch time guide can be downloaded here. I highly recommend it!