By Jason Kong
Want to get a jump on book promotion for 2015? Start thinking about partnering with your fellow authors.
Working together is timeless strategy. Regardless of how the publishing landscape changes and how online tools evolve, there will always be opportunities for leverage by joining with others who have similar goals.
What ideas should you be paying attention to? I thought it’d be interesting if I posed the question to various leaders in the publishing domain. I asked those who were fiction authors themselves, and others who were marketing gurus. I then compiled their responses and attempted to identify some themes.
Here are the takeaways:
Partnerships start with the right mindset
We all know the ease of self-publishing has led to a very crowded marketplace.
If there’s any kind of valid niche for your stories, odds are you’re not the sole writer in that space. Joel Friedlander, the owner of the very blog you’re reading, notes the following:
I think collaboration offers a real advantage to fiction authors, since fiction books, by their nature, don’t compete with each other. It seems to me that fiction authors could achieve the best propulsion for their marketing efforts by collaborating with other others in the same genre, and I’ve seen many signs of authors doing this.
It’s inevitable that some writers will try to reach the same audience as you. But by working together and contributing to a joint marketing effort, you’ve transformed a limitation into leverage.
Johnny B. Truant, one of the partners of Sterling & Stone, comes up with his own terminology for this approach:
Assuming everyone involved brings something to the table (i.e., everyone has at least SOME audience beforehand), then the promo will expose everyone’s fans to everyone else’s, and everyone wins. There’s no competition — only “coopetition.” Nobody stops liking one author so that they can like another.
As more fiction writers publish their stories, you’re faced with a situation that is both a problem and opportunity. It’s harder to get noticed, but easier to find other authors that appeals to an audience similar to the one you want. Your decision is to work against them or with them.
What will you choose?
Joint promotions work
Out of all the responses I received, marketing as a group was the most frequently mentioned tactic. It wasn’t even close.
Author Anne R. Allen’s feedback exemplified this:
Pretty much all my marketing has been through collaboration, but the most spectacular success has come from [working] with other authors in anthologies, joint promos and especially a boxed set. Right now I’m in a boxed set called A Six-Pack of Sleuths with five other comic mystery authors, most of whom I met when we collaborated on the Indie Chicks Anthology in 2011, which was also a big success. The Six-Pack has been in the Amazon top 2000 since its debut.
Flexibility is one of the many advantages for fiction authors working together. The power to choose how a promotion is executed ensures the fit is right for both the writers planning the marketing as well as the readers receiving it. Shelley Hitz, owner of TrainingAuthors.com, elaborates:
A group promotion can be organized around a certain theme, holiday, or other event. It is best if there is a catchy title for the group promotion as well as graphic designed that can be used for marketing it. Several of the group promotions I have been involved in have been for a 99 cent sale. However, you can choose the details of your promotion you think will work best for your audience.
The real beauty of a group promotion is the synergistic nature of the proposition. For readers, it’s a lower risk to find a new author they enjoy. For writers, it’s a higher chance of picking up a new fan. The odds for making a new connection just increased for everyone involved.
R.J. Adams from BookMarketingTools.com explains further:
The best way that fiction writers can collaborate with peers is to create a collection of related books, and either give it away for free, or really cheap. This allows you to create huge value for the reader. They are more likely to buy a boxed set or a bundle of books, especially if the price is right, to try out authors they may not have heard of. This allows each author to be discovered and create fans.
Whether you’re a fiction author with a debut novel or a veteran storyteller with two dozen books published, partnering up can improve your marketing.
Get together in small groups
Connecting with your peers is like gaining superpowers.
Their knowledge and experience are enhance your own. They provide insight when you’re stuck, and encouragement when you’re down. Big book marketing problems suddenly become much smaller when you have other writers on your side.
Online tools are great for scalability, but sometimes engaging more people isn’t the answer. The right environment with the right people is important too. Author and blogger Molly Greene details what works for her:
Won’t claim it’s the best way, but it’s valuable: I belong to a private Facebook group, just a handful of trusted fellow authors covering all genres and experience levels. We swap info regarding book promos we’re doing and how they worked out as far as results – downloads, sales, date(s) our promos ran, and what we did to pre-advertise the promotion, etc. We also share industry information pertaining to potential trends and what other authors are doing, and ask questions about different platforms and how best to operate on them.
The value of a smaller group may be further elevated by face-to-face interaction. That’s not always possible, but physical proximity creates an intimacy that can’t be duplicated over the internet. Dana Lynn Smith of The Savvy Book Marketer has a few words on that:
Get together with other novelists in your local area to share ideas, celebrate successes, plan library or bookstore events, or host book launch parties for each other. You can organize your author group informally, or set up a group at MeetUp.com.
Instead of cultivating more relationships consider deeper ones, the kind that’s made possible through regular contact and mutual support. Working in smaller circles may be your key to getting the traction you seek.
Help your peers first
What habit will allow you to attract collaboration opportunities?
Being generous to your fellow authors. Even if there’s no formal partnership in place.
Why? Tim Grahl, author of “Your First 1000 Copies,” reveals:
My opinion is that every author should start by thinking through how they can help other authors sell more books. Review their books, blog about them, interview them on a podcast, etc.
It’s all about the long view.
The more I help other authors sell books, the more people I’ll find in my corner when it’s time to sell my own books. In fact, in many cases people will offer right away to reciprocate in some way.
Keep in mind, Tim isn’t saying to expect aid from those you’ve helped. Rather, you’re in a more favorable position to receive support when you do need it.
Besides, there’s a practical reason why promoting your peers makes a ton of sense. Prolific author CJ Lyons, owner of the blog No Rules Just Write!, shares this insight:
I never wanted my newsletter to be all about me and I know my readers are voracious and there’s no way I can write fast enough to keep up with their appetites (which is why authors really aren’t in competition with each other), so I often invite authors whose work I think will resonate with my readers to be highlighted in my newsletter. It becomes a win/win for all: the author has a chance to reach a new audience (I’ll often ask them to provide a special gift whether it’s a free short story or excerpt or special deal), my readers get the chance to possibly find a new “must-buy” author, and I get to give my readers something special.
CJ understands that when her readers benefits, she benefits too. Any action that aligns the well-being of both her customers and peers sets her up for success as well. Goodwill may not be measurable, but it definitely has impact.
Investing in the right partners is worth it
Joining forces with different people can lead to wildly different outcomes.
You shouldn’t take your partner selection process lightly. As Sean Platt, one of the partners of Sterling & Stone explains, who you choose to collaborate with has a profound impact on the bottom line:
Fiction writers can improve their book marketing through peer collaboration by harmonizing their skill sets with someone who complements them perfectly. Fiction writing, by and large, is a numbers game. The more books you have in your library the better you will do. Working with (the right) partner greatly reduces the friction in getting product to market. By working someone who allows you to do what you’re best at faster, you can create more product, deeper funnels, and a more rapidly expanding fan base.
Yes, trust and respect are essential — that’s true of any relationship. But wondering up front how certain individuals mesh together is a worthwhile consideration, because some fits are better than others. And if you’re going to invest the effort for a joint venture, the whole really needs to be greater than the sum of its parts.
If you’re a fiction writer for the long haul, then having the right partners at your side is a splendid idea. Kimberley Grabas, owner of YourWriterPlatform.com, advises to look beyond the immediate time horizon:
Approach each collaborative project with longer term goals in mind – not just a bump in book sales.
Choose partners carefully, and promote them freely without expecting anything in return. Commit to supporting your partners on a continual basis, focus on strengthening relationships, and you’ll build a tremendous asset to your writing career that will increase in value over time.
Collaboration can be a short term tactic, but there are huge benefits to viewing it a long term strategy. Marketing your fiction with partners may be one of the best investments you make.
What is your biggest question about book marketing through peer collaboration?
This article only touched on some of the ways you can benefit by working with your fellow fiction authors. What was left unanswered? Let’s talk about that in the comments.
Jason Kong is a Contributing Writer for The Book Designer. He also runs Storyrally, an email-based subscription that helps fiction writers with their online marketing.
You can learn more about Jason here.