Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reaching Out

Booklovers Bench, where readers are winners

Nowadays, being a writer means spending so much time on the periphery of writing that it's hard to remember the only way to sell books is to write books. We're expected to maintain an Internet presence, interact with readers, and keep our names in front of people. And, I'll confess, often it's fun to spend a little time tweeting, or seeing what our friends are doing on Facebook. Unless you're disciplined and set a timer, it's easy to look up at the clock and see you've frittered away an hour. Or three. Word With Friends is not even "pseudo" writing time.

One approach many writers have taken is to band together to help expand their reach. And it is about reach, not sales. If your goal is solely to sell books, you're likely to be frustrated. Unless you're a Big Name Author whose next release is highly anticipated, makes the best-seller list before it's even released, and have a publisher that markets you and your book, odds are, very few people have heard of you, especially if you're an indie author with no brick and mortar presence.

I'm now a member of a small group called Booklover's Bench, and we're reaching out to readers. At the moment, there are five of us in the group, and now that we're getting the hang of things, we plan to add a few more.

By working with and for each other, we're reaching more people with less effort than if we each had to do everything ourselves. We can share what works, what doesn't, and each of us has an area of "expertise" that we can bring to the group, which also saves time and money.

In addition, we promote for each other. Readers get tired of the "buy my book" approach to everything (and it's a total turnoff in the social media). However, if it becomes, "buy HIS book," or "buy HER book" it's not self-promoting. And, of course, we've all read each other's books, so we can stand behind what we're saying.

When you have a team helping out by sharing your Facebook posts, they become visible to all their followers as well.  So, while my 'reach' via Facebook (unless I pay extra) might be 1200 people, when I add in the followers of the other four people on the team, I'm now reaching a lot more. And we try to include "non-promo" stuff as well. It's about engaging people, not whomping them over the head with promotion.

In my newsletter, I offer special contests to subscribers, usually with something of "mine" as the prize. Now, with a team behind me, I can include prizes from them as well. It becomes less about "me, me, me" and more about, "Here are some nifty things I think you might like." And up goes our reach.

On the financial side, any expenses incurred are split five ways. That's a help right there. We have a website, and we hold monthly contests. So far, we've given away a Nook Simple Touch and a $50 gift card, as well as downloads of our books.

Have you had any experience working the marketing side of things with a group? Successes or failures you'd like to share?

(Oh, and of course, I'd love it if you'd pop over to Booklover's Bench and "like" our pages. We'll be having another contest in April, so bookmark the page and check back.)

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.


  1. Yes, Terry, small marketing collectives do seem to be gaining ground as overtaxed authors seek to share duties. The Liar's Club, run by Jonathan Maberry and including some 13 authors, has been running in my neck of the woods for many years. While the pimping of books can cone across the same way in a group as it does on one's own, the group is able to do things an individual can't, such as run a series of "Writer's Coffeehouse" events around the greater Philadelphia area, and band together for workshops and signings—a bookstore is a lot more interested in hosting if half a dozen or more authors are the nucleus of an event. What one does is done in the name of all, and as you said, that extends visibility. Debut authors seem to be banding together as well.

  2. Kathryn, when you consider everything you have to do, it makes sense to find others willing to share the load. I'm off to Left Coast Crime today, so I won't be able to respond to all comments immediately, but I will be checking in if anyone has questions.

  3. Whoa ... wait a minute, Terry ... your 'reach' via Fazebook is 1200? I've been flogging Headwind on that 'social media' thingy for 2 years and have made it to a reach of 102 ... and most of them are family. How'd you do it?

  4. Chris - if I understood how it happened, I'd be glad to share. I don't even know how my 'reach' is calculated. I do try to be active without posting too much "buy my book" stuff. I also belong to other groups on FB, so that extends reach.

    That's why having a group approach helps. I've only recently created my author page, and I confess to trolling for "Likes" -- for example each time I hit another 500 "likes" I give away a box of print books from my overflowing shelves. (hint, hint).

  5. The group approach is an excellent idea. If you're an indie author, it for sure gives you a step up.

  6. I have a marketing collective that evolved from my blog book tours classes. The BBT Cafe is now open to anyone interested in joining the group (who is a publishing author). I don't necessarily think the load is any lighter in these sorts of efforts, but certainly the reach is expanded quite dramatically even if only a few dozen people participate. Easy to calculate potential reach when you know who is re-tweeting, for example, and adding up the following for each team member. That said, group efforts create interesting dynamics. If you don't carry your weight, or aren't particularly likable, it could work against you. I've observed this more than once.

  7. I belong to the BB Cafe and it is a good group of authors who promote for each other. I do like the idea of sharing the way we do, and I try to make sure that not all of what I am posting on any social media is all about buying my book, or others. That is such an important key to successful marketing on social media. Don't be whapping your friends. LOL

  8. Exactly, Maryann. What did we call it decades ago? Soft sell? It's part of why I'm such a big fan of the giveaway - a nice, tasty morsel that will make readers hungry for more of your writing.

  9. Love the networking/support group/marketing thing. Spreading the work, the reach, and the rewards is a stellar idea.

  10. Thanks for your comments, all. I'm doing another 'reaching out' thing, which is attending a conference. Left Coast Crime is designed as a 'readers' conference, although probably most of the attendees are authors as well (we read, too, you know.)

  11. What a great idea! It seems more official when a bunch of authors get together, and takes the pressure off of always tooting your own horn.

    Morgan Mandel


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. If a glitch is preventing you from commenting, visit our Facebook page and drop your wise words there: Blood-Red Pencil on Facebook