Thursday, May 15, 2014

Teaming Up For Success

Booklover's Bench
A while back, I attended my first Novelists, Inc. conference in Albany, NY. One of the panels featured a "Lifeboat Team" – a group of authors who had decided there was value in working together on the 'non-writing' aspects of being a writer. I recapped their findings on my blog, and had several people respond that they were interested in joining a team. At the time, I had no intention of joining one, much less starting one, but after more inquiries from others, we decided to give it a shot, and formed Booklover's Bench. I blogged about it here over a year ago. I thought I'd share what we've learned.

1. Know your goals.
Other groups have set goals of hitting the major best-seller lists. These require a much greater investment of time and money. They've produced boxed sets, sold them for a pittance, but generated enough sales to hit those lists. Our goal was, and still is, to expand our reach, because in this publishing climate, marketing is vital. Decide what you want to get from the group, and what you'll have to do to get it.

And, for the record, getting a kazillion Facebook followers no longer means what it used to. While it's good to have Facebook followers, Facebook has changed its policy, so having 5,000 people liking your page doesn't mean anything close to 5,000 will see your posts. It's more like 10%. That's barely half of the average open rate for a newsletter. Also, Facebook can decide to make your page go away without notice. You'll never find those followers, because there's no place you can store them. Our goal of reach-expansion means we're looking for mailing list names. Our contests do that for us. So, even though we all have more Twitter and Facebook followers, we've also seen considerable growth in our lists, which is more important.

2. Have rules. Know what's expected.
We learned, more or less the hard way, that we had to set more specific "requirements" for being a member of the group. Whereas some of our members didn't like telling others they had to check Facebook posts, tweets, etc., a given number of times a day/week, we found that there were a couple members, no longer with us, who felt that the original wording of "as you have time" meant they only contributed when they had something that put themselves on the radar. So, we've designed an agreement. It's still loose, but it's better than having members join only to drop out later.

3. Have a way to communicate with each other.
At first, we formed a Yahoo Group where we could email everyone at once. This worked, and still does, but it became difficult to track threads and know who was answering what. AT one member's suggestion, we formed a "secret" group on Facebook, which makes keeping topics straight easier. We've also done Skype meetings, although the technology became an issue with dropped calls. However, a reliable on-line meeting system can work if there are decisions that require discussion and immediate input.

4. Make sure everyone has a job.
The idea of forming the group was to share the workload. Everyone is good at something, so it's important to utilize each member's skills. One of us is a web designer, so he takes care of maintaining the site. Others collect contest information, members' good news, set up our contests, etc.

And, of course, having others helping out with marketing and promotion means each of us has more time to devote to that number one marketing tool—write the next book.

For more, visit the Booklover's Bench. There's even time to get in on our May contest.

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She's the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

15 comments :

  1. I have seen multiple mystery "marketing groups" and think it is a terrific way to promote each other. I think it helps if all write in the same genre. A mystery writer's followers might not be interested in a sci-fi writer's book or a middle-grade fantasy. Everything is more fun with friends.

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    1. We've got a mix of genres, and we're all seeing results. While I agree people might prefer specific genres, there are a lot who have more diverse interests, or are willing to try new things.

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  2. What a fabulous idea, Terry!

    When traditional publishers put out a book, it's a team effort (likely much of it in-house and not usually out-of-pocket, although the writer in recent years has had to bear at least a portion of the marketing responsibility). When those of us who go a different route put out a book, we don't generally enjoy those same advantages. Yes, we can tap into various freelance options (editors, proofreaders, cover and interior designers, etc.), but we pay for each one. We do have a book — hopefully a good one after all that expense — but we then face the monumental task of recouping our costs through sales.

    Forming a group like the one you mention can be a huge help in the marketing arena. Everybody's having a "job" cuts down on the work one must otherwise do alone and benefits all other members of the group. This is a fantastic application of "community," one that should work well for all (as you note is happening with your team members); and your putting rules in place was a great way to be sure everyone is on the same page and willing to make an appropriate contribution. Communication is obviously vital, and you've got that covered. Yes!

    Thank you for sharing this "how-to" marketing strategy. I'm definitely going to go to work on doing something similar very soon. :-)

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    1. Good luck, Linda ... many hands make light work, it takes a village ... all that!

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  3. Good article Terry. Thanks for all the work you do on the Booklover's Bench!

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  4. I agree about Facebook and now see it as a necessary evil. Everything I do is now focused on bring visitors to my website, where I have complete control over what happens. BLB offers another avenue for extending reach while maintaining control. And that's a good thing for us who are members!

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    1. Terry, I agree that a website is vital. And I also agree with your feelings about Facebook.

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  5. Terry Odell is very modest about her being a founder of our group. The idea came from Terry and a band of us merrily climbed aboard her wagon. She's shepherded us along and she along with others in our group put forth ideas to help us keep the group's website fresh. Its nice to have a confederation of like-minded authors to bounce ideas and promotions off of. I'm not as technically inclined as some of the others, but I try to make up for it with tweets and consistency in meeting group deadlines. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!

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    1. Maggie -- thanks so much for your kind words, and you're definitely an asset to the team!

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  6. I am proud to be part of Booklover's Bench. We all do what we can and contribute according to our talents. Terry, you've made all valid points here and always keep us on track.

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    1. I can say the same for everyone on the team. Your lists of resources are invaluable.

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  7. I was honored when I was invited to become a member of the Booklover's Bench, a group of experienced writers. Terry Odell is an incredible "leader," and the entire group is supportive and encouraging. They strongly suggested that I set up a website, and I followed their sage advice. There is so much competition today in the book market that being able to discuss strategies, contests pros and cons, etc., is an invaluable part of a group such as ours.

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  8. I was honored to be invited to join Booklover's Bench. Terry Odell is an incredible coordinator and leader, and the group has been extremely encouraging and supportive. It's so important to be able to discuss strategies, contest pros and cons, etc., in a safe space, such as our private Facebook page, or our Yahoo email account.

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    1. Thanks, Carol -- yes, having a private 'water cooler' is another great perk to being in a group.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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