Building a Launch Team 02

Ok, so let’s talk about some super basic but important realities while we are still in the beginning of the process here. Firstly, everyone knows there is no such thing as a free lunch! Yes, there is “paying it forward” which I am a firm believer in, and there are many good souls in the world who would do just about anything for free. However, we don’t want to take advantage of them, do we?

If I ask people to join my launch team, then I need to offer them something in return. I don’t have a bottomless pit of money and there are so many costs involved in launching a book that I can’t pay people or even give them all a free signed book. Which I would do by the way if I could print the books for free, but we can’t. No one can.

So what can I offer them?

I think it’s important to offer up some free, signed copies. A chance to win a copy is a great hook and as the team will never be that big, the chances of winning one of say half a dozen copies are actually very high. I can have giveaways where the winners are drawn at random, or as I’ve seen on some other launch groups, members can earn “points” along the way and those with the most points each month win the book. I like this idea because it rewards those who put in the most work, and it also means that people enjoy the ability to do something to attain the prize. I’ll talk more about this in the days to come as I work out how I’ll do it for my group.

I do art work in my free time and many times over the years I have made books marks for charity. Not paper ones, but metal ones like these:

So I’ll be making a bunch of them over the next week. I like the idea of more than just a few members of my team being able to win things and these have always been popular (and of course are still book related). I will do a video tutorial on them if you’d like to do similar, as I think that even those without a lot of skill can still make them, depending on what you make them out of.

Of course, people always like to be thanked. I’m not sure I did that well enough last time, so this time I hope to do a better job of it. I plan to design a certificate of appreciation that I can send to all the members, but again, I still need to work on this idea. Many of my supporters live around the globe and international postage is huge, so I need to navigate this somehow. Maybe a printable, emailed version could work? Ideas would be very welcome if you have any!

Lastly, before I go too deep on any of these points, I have also observed that members and authors can quickly become frustrated. They all seem to feel that they give, give, give, and yet also feel that the author is always asking for more. While at the same time I constantly hear from the authors that they feel they were given assurances and then so often let down. So I’m going to try and do things a little differently this time and divide up the jobs. As authors, we need people who can only do a few things, but we need them to do them well, and we don’t need ANYONE to do everything. So I’m going to split the jobs so to speak.

I want to create a Blue Team for those who are certified Amazon reviewers or are able to offer other vital reviews through the first month or so as the book is launched. By launch-time, many of them are sick of hearing the author ask for help in other ways, so why not leave them out of the shouting until they are needed? Because we need them to sign on early and to be committed. But then don’t bombard them with Red Team job requests.

Red Team members might not be able to offer certified reviews, so I won’t nag or even ask them to. But they are the people who are great on social media or their own networking circles and will help create the buzz and excitement in getting the word out there. The best Red Team members will even belong to a Book Club or Community group who are happy to become involved and get behind the author. They are the people most likely to turn one of their meetings around launch day into a launch party of sorts and post the pics on Facebook. Other red Team members can be truly effective by simply following and sharing many of the author Facebook Page posts to get the word out there.

I will still keep both teams under the Launch Team banner as all members will still have the opportunity to give feedback on art work and book covers, to download the book on its free days and to give general, specific, or other feedback, and all of them will be able to receive an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of the book. The Facebook group will then be all about fun, giveaways, photos, background info, and not all about asking asking asking (although there will be a little, but at least people won’t feel bombarded if it isn’t aimed at them all the time).

I will talk more next week in depth on each of these ideas and give you all the opportunity to cater your support to your own needs.

To join my Launch Team, click HERE.

@JPeaSmith
 
“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Building a Launch Team 01

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Welcome to the countdown to my new, as-yet-un-named book due out at the end of November this year! (16 weeks today actually!)

A whole bunch of you have followed my earlier series on Launch Teams and asked me about self-publishing, so after a couple of months hiding and travelling (actually very busy on other important things), I am now back in full swing and plan on taking you through every step of this exciting process. From the very beginning to launch day and beyond.

Step one is to set up a private Facebook Group which I have done HERE. The idea of this group would normally be to gather around a team of supporters, and that will still be the case for me, but this time it will also include a bunch of people who would like to observe the process and learn. It is an interactive group with giveaways, news, updates and so on, creating some buzz but also keeping an eye on the processes and progress. It is also a space for an author to be more vulnerable and share hiccups, fears, and even ask for feedback or help when stuck.

This group is usually the first to see book covers, have a say in book covers and titles, layouts and the like. It is a wonderful place for fans and readers to get close to the action as well. So please feel free to join me there, or let your friends and family know, if you think they may be interested.

Once we gather some decent numbers we can move to the next phase, but I will keep you all up to date with how it goes 🙂

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments below!

@JPeaSmith
 
“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Two Tier Support?

screen-shot-2017-02-20-at-12-58-35-pmI am toying with an idea here, and I need to know what you think. It is somewhere in the space of having two distinct groups in my launch teams.

People who have their own launch teams tend to be way better supporters of others, and I have seen groups where they unwittingly land up with a group that is deeply connected and supportive, much like I spoke about in this post a few weeks ago. The problem with this is that it can backfire and if it does it will happen without notice, and it is irreversible, and you can land up losing your very best reviews.

This is just a thought that I am having, so bear with me, please.

What about having a two-tier support group or even two launch teams? is that too hard. But the benefits are twofold. The first is that you split your roles but secondly, you can grow your team way bigger (I think).

Team A: These people are full-on supporters. They read ARC copies, they download your book on its free day, they leave reviews on every country of Amazon and Goodreads and they blog about your book, share it on Facebook and so on. These people are a dream come true. They are FABULOUS. They are also people that you trust to follow through. These are the people that I would have on my launch team whether I had one or two.

But Amazon will not let them review our work if we are personal friends OR EVEN IF SUSPECT that we are friends. We need these people desperately but then all should agree to not connect on a personal level through social media!

Team B: These people are just as important. But they don’t have enough cred on Amazon to leave reviews, and/or they are family and friends that can’t review us anyway. They are the people who don’t want to be bombarded with all the info on the launch team site and they don’t have the time to read ARCs, and nor do they want to. They are simply happy to give us some love when our book comes out, share on Facebook and so on. I find that a lot of people lose these people from their launch teams because they are simply not that into the whole process. They just want to lose the bottom line.

They aren’t second best, they just play a different role. They can be friends on Facebook, they can love and support. But if we keep them out of the nitty gritty then more of them might stay?

Any thoughts?

Where Jennifer hangs out: 

@JPeaSmith
 
“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Infiltrate or Collaborate?

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-12-42-17-pmTwo completely different words, with completely different meanings, and yet some people get them totally mixed up! As you know, I am all about collaboration, “paying it forward”, and being a genuine part of a community. If an author wants to sell their books they need to build a launch team and if they want people to join them then they need to be a part of a community (a few of actually). And if you want to be a part of a community then you need to contribute. It is as simple as that.

But I need to make it abundantly clear so that you know where I stand. Joining a community that you aren’t prepared to genuinely participate in, congruently contribute to, and stay in for the long haul, is not collaboration! If your sole purpose is to use members for your gain, then you are simply infiltrating, and that is worse than doing nothing at all.

Many years ago I had the privilege of mentoring a young woman who’s husband struggled with addiction. I won’t go into any more detail than that, but as we sat in a coffee shop in the middle of a New York City winter, a couple of weeks before Christmas, she poured her heart to me. You see, the movie “Thanks for Sharing” had recently hit the big screen, and the main actor had done a brilliant job in one sense, of showing what sexual addiction was actually about (it is nothing like it is commonly portrayed I can assure you!). Her problem wasn’t just that this poor woman was dealing with a husband just like the character in the movie, she was now dealing with worse.

It turns out that the accuracy of the movie wasn’t a coincidence. The actor had joined her husband’s addiction group and as there are loads of other actors and famous people in many addiction groups, especially in places like LA and New York, no one thought anything of it, and the confidences were respected at every level. But it reality, the actor wasn’t a sex addict at all, he just wanted to experience being in an addiction group so that he could do his movie realistically! All the secrets he told were lies, all the hours over weeks and months, that he poured into those relationships were all fake. He betrayed the other members of the group at such a deep level that many of them, like this woman’s husband, stopped going.

Some of these men had only been going in the first place because it was part of their treatment and because they were assured of secrecy. No one broke the secrecy, no one did anything “wrong”, but this small group of broken, struggling men, were betrayed at one of the deepest levels. Over a period of months, the actor learned, got what he wanted, and then he left. He heard the others bare their souls, but he only pretended to bare his.

I know that that is an extreme example, but the point that I want to make is that joining a community needs to be real if you ever want them to support your stage, your writing, your blog. So don’t be an asshole like Mark Ruffalo and screw people over just so that you can make your million!

Where Jennifer hangs out:

Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith

“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman

A Perfect Launch Team Member

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Does this sound like a perfect launch team member to you:

Someone who reads your book over and over again, each time helping with thoughts, corrections, and ideas, bringing out the best in you. They tell everyone they know about your book, they write reviews on every Amazon site, on Goodreads and they write an independent review. They buy your book with their own money, they share every Tweet Facebook post you make about it and they email every single person on their email list.

Well, if you do you then you may just be right. Except, that if you know someone like this then it is probably your granny. Which is lovely, but the reality is that not only are their few people like this available to you but believe it or not, this kind of person can also work against you. If they over do it, never shut up about your book or cover their entire social media in it, then people can so easily get sick of it, stop following her, and at the very least roll their eyes and move on, without even clicking on your book never mind buying it.

So what then makes a second best launch team member? Someone who at least buys, reads, and writes a review on Amazon and Goodreads right?

Well sort of. The reality is that we need ALL kinds of people on our teams! I learned the hard way that not everyone has a “certified” enough Amazon account to write a review. And not everyone has the time to proofread and not everyone has the social media links to spread it. If people love you they will do their bit, but it is most likely that their bit will be quite different to the next person. And you need them all. I had to learn that they all had something different to offer. Even the people who have no time, expertise or capacity to do much, they at least downloaded my book on “free” day and it counts as a sale.

And that is why you need numbers and you need them from far and wide. Only a quarter will leave a review, a small handful will finish a proofread, and tiny proportion will even tell their friends. Keep going, keep digging, and round up those friends … but don’t expect too much from them and don’t forget that they are doing you a FAVOUR!

Where Jennifer hangs out: Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith
“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman

What Kind of a Stage?

img_1061Last time I talked about the idea of hosting a stage for others. That cooking dream sounded great, but it can be applied to the most simple things. Use your stage to interview new writers, review books in your genre, build a following made up of the people who you want to one day read your book. If your genre is fiction based on small creatures then find every book on the planet on small-creature-fiction, borrow them from the library, download them from Amazon on free or 99c promotions, follow all the author’s blogs and comment kindly on many of their posts, and then over time, review each and every one of them. Soon you will have a huge chunk of the small-creature-fiction fans on the planet following you. Write about everyone else and they will listen… then you can share that you write too. Blog on your dilemma about how to choose the perfect name for a main character that is a millipede, run a competition to help choose the final name… the list is endless.

My ego says that my stage would be filled with my memoirs, my books, my interviews … but when I put aside my ego, I have learned the last year that I am also pretty good at sharing my journey, helping others feel comfortable asking me questions and working alongside people. They appear to like that I bear my soul and the hard stuff in this journey and they come to me saying “me too!“. Because of that, I have received so many requests for help in setting up a platform, launching an eBook, and so on, that I don’t have time to answer them all. But because they are mostly all asking the same question, I can write about it in one place and we can all learn together.

Building a stage with something that you are good at is the perfect way to start. It might be small, and humble, but it is real and will ultimately bring an audience. I am still finding my way around, but I am thankful that I have fallen into this space really. People then keep telling me that it is all very well for me, but they haven’t fallen into their space. So let me help you… experiment, play around, ask people that you trust. Set up an author site like this and write, blog and share what you are passionate about and what draws people in. It doesn’t hugely matter what, as long as you enjoy it.

Some of my favorite blogs are simply about journeys. Where people use them as a journal and like-minded people follow along, becoming invested in the outcome.

I took three months off from writing (and I write full time) to research and experiment with social media. Six months ago I was too scared to even look at a Twitter App never mind download it or work out how Twitter works. I now have 4 Twitter accounts, (the author one is closing in on thousand followers), 4 Instagram accounts, an author page on Facebook, Goodreads and Amazon and I have published a short book which has sold over 2,000 copies in it’s first few weeks, most of them on the free days but still, it is creating a buzz. All in order to begin to create a following… I am muddling my way around. But for the most part, I simply share my story, my struggles, my journey and I give out all and everything that I learn … for free!

I am muddling my way around. But for the most part, I simply share my story, my struggles, my journey and I give out all and everything that I learn … for free!

My stage does not fit any simple box and people appear to like that. But there are others out there looking for cooking picture blogs and small-creature-fiction. It doesn’t matter if everyone else has already done the same thing… in fact, that is better because they will be your tribe if you write comments on their blogs and interview them and share their stories…

This is supposed to be about Launch Teams and it is, but supporters of launch teams come from the people in your tribes. People who are happy to come to your stage and be there to support you when you launch that book!

For the readers out there, they can’t wait to be a part of your launch team, they just need to know about you!

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Where I hang out: Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon
@JPeaSmith
“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Hosting a Stage.

IMG_3536Yesterday I talked about the concept of building a stage instead of a platform but mentioned that one option is to still build your own stage but maybe invite others to use it for a while. This is both to draw people in using already established talent while at the same time still marketing yourself as the “owner” of said stage. This sounds like a great idea but what if no talent wants to come? What if I am so much of a nobody that I can’t even invite talent to come, never mind have any chance of them saying yes!

But here is a thought; in this day and age, we don’t need to have people actually come onto our stage. We can just place them there electronically! What do I mean? Well, this is also where humility comes in. What kind of stage would each of us be REALLY good at creating if we were put our egos aside?

It is easy to forget that you are an expert at something. We all want to be a writer or a dancer or a cook or a movie star. But let’s be honest, few of us are expert enough to be famous in any of those fields. Or are we? I will use cooking as an example, mostly because I hate cooking, I can’t cook, I hate that I have no choice but to cook sometimes, and I have too many bad experiences with family members who used cooking as an excuse to hide in the kitchen so as to avoid contact or intimacy with anyone else in the family. So worse than I hate it, it is also a trigger for me. But just say for a moment that I LOVE to cook, and I want to be a famous cook one day. I cook, I talk about cooking, I watch all the shows on cooking, but for one reason or another, I would never be able to go on Masterchef, I don’t have any famous contacts, and I simply don’t know how to get myself out there. I can’t even take a decent photo of the fabulous things that I cook.

But I am humble enough to recognize that I am pretty good at finding simply GORGEOUS cooking photos on the internet. I drool over them, I bookmark them, I dream of them. So I start a blog. A simple blog, with few words like myself, but every morning I spend an hour on the internet, searching in all the deepest, darkest corners where nobody else can find them, and I share the best that I find that day. Each blog post includes the links to the sites where the photos come from and a few snippets of information about what I love most about the picture. I also write to the author of the cooking site that I have highlighted, to let them know that I have shared them. This is both a courtesy, but it is also because I know that anyone with a site wants it to be shared and that they will be thrilled. They will likely share my blog post about them on their site or at least their social media, and they might even like my Facebook Page and start following to see who they share my space with. As my blogs all have an automatic link to my Twitter feed and to my Cooking Photos Facebook page, without having to do anything, my Twitter and Facebook feeds start to become filled with stunning cooking photos.

People start to notice, and soon I gather a small following, which over time grows bigger and bigger. I know that I am not showing off MY cooking skills yet, but I am building both a following and a stage that people start aiming to be included in. Depending on how hard I work, how good I am at it, and a bunch of other factors, eventually I gain these things:

  • Confidence in what it feels like to actually have a stage…
  • A huge insight into what people are looking for and all the gaps that I could potentially fill in…
  • A following of people who look at my blog, my Facebook and my Twitter, every single day. My photo is in the corner of everything and I engage with my followers where ever possible. They see me as a very real, imperfect person…
  • I become known and followed.

This is that middle space that I was talking about, between the tools of sharing and the stage we want to create. What I love most about this space is it isn’t hard work, it is actually enjoyable, it contributes, and you meet great people along the way. This is the perfect stage for me to launch a book from. The audience is there, it is all about me … even though they came in the first place, many years before, because of my stunning pictures that came from other people!

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Where I hang out: Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon
@JPeaSmith
“Here she comes, running, out of prison and off the pedestal: chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman.”  ― Charlotte Perkins Gilman

 

Author Stage or Author Platform

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Many people who are new to writing are doing exactly what we are all advised to do: Build an online presence, an online platform, and get the word out there. We have to sell ourselves, and we have to sell our books. But the biggest question I get asked over and over again is how do I get people to come to me and listen to what I have to say. This is the hardest part in some ways, but in other ways, I think it is actually the easiest, but you do need a few key ingredients: Humility, Patience, and Community are just three of them but believe me, you can’t get far without ALL of them. Here is why:

The first mistake we make is to go out, buy the wood and build ourselves a little stage in our back yard. We stand on it and wait for the crowds to come. It is heart-wrenching when no one turns up! So we fork out the cash for advertising, we stick posters on the lamp posts, and we tell all our friends. Some of them come, but still, there is no crowd and few of our books sell. It feels so unfair.

The problem is that many of us build a stage before we build a platform. Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook are all great tools, but they are just that, they are tools. They are the loudspeakers and the flyers and the billboards. But the problem is that they are lost in millions upon millions of almost identical loudspeakers, flyers, and billboards. At one end we have a FABULOUS product (aren’t all of our books going to be the next best seller?), and at the other end we have the advertising, but there is nothing in between. There is nothing to connect us and make us stand out. Even our STUNNING front cover is lost among thousands of other stunning covers!

So in comes humility and patience. Humility to ask someone else if we can perhaps have a seat at their table, to get to know them, and to one day accept a teeny corner of their stage. Over and over people tell me that they don’t have the time to meet people, to get to know them before they ask for help, or even then, that they don’t want to stand on someone else’s stage! They want to stand on their own stage. I get that. We all want our own stage to shine, but we can’t force people to come or to buy.

Another option perhaps is to build your own stage by all means, but for the first season, don’t stand on it other than to introduce our guests. Invite others to come and speak on it instead. Bring in people who you know others would love to hear. It is still your stage. But if you spend a season being the host, welcoming people, giving others a voice and a place to stand, then after a while, when people love and trust you, they will turn to you and ask you ” do you also write? I love to hear your voice at the beginning of each show, I would love to hear what else you have to say”.

These things both take time, they both take humility, and they take a whole lot of “paying it forward”. I am not saying it is easy, but for me, it is actually a whole lot easier than embarrassingly standing on a soap box and shouting “PLEASE BUY MY BOOK!” at the top of my lungs all day, every day.

We need to build an online presence and an online platform, but we must be a little careful of confusing it with simply building a stage…

Over the next few posts, I will dig much deeper into these things and answer any questions you have. Please feel free to join the closed Facebook Group on the subject of building ethical launch teams if you would like to ask your questions in a more private space, by clicking HERE.

 

Ethical Launch Teams Part 2:

img_9270 Yesterday I started a Facebook Group for anyone who is interested in the whole concept of Launch Teams. With so many people doing their own publishing, it has become imperative to also do one’s own marketing as well, and if you are a writer like me then that is HARD! I am not a sales person, I don’t like sucking up to people, and I am absolutely useless at self-promotion, but worse than all of that is the fact that I am also an introvert. And I would also way prefer to be writing my book or my blogs than writing about me or my book or my blogs. And what would I say anyway?

So while I don’t think that anyone enjoys the whole marketing side of their books, things like Launch Teams have become a necessity. But this has also opened up a massive opportunity for readers who aren’t writers. A world has emerged where readers can spend very little money and read as many books as they would like or are able to. They can get in on the ground floor and be a part of the machine that puts great books and great writers out there. Joining a Launch Team for them is a great way to get cheap or even free books.

That sounds like a perfect match to me, and I keep hearing people who are new to the game say the same thing…. and then a few months later they burn their toes and wonder how it happened. You see in the rush to be seen and heard, many authors ask for reviews, publicity, and support and are kind and willing enough to return the favour. This is where it comes unstuck. Let us imagine for a moment that you and I are in the same literary group. There are twelve of us and we have been meeting at the library on Tuesday evenings for a decade and now it is time for us all to launch our much loved, hard earned, soul-bearing books. The timing isn’t exact, but within a year or so of each other we all proofread, edit, double, triple and quadruple check everything, and each of us launches our book. We have all supported each other in every way possible for a decade and we all feel the love of the others as we all sign up for Amazon, buy each other’s books, and give each other an honest review.

Our little group sends out weekly emails to each other and we are all friends on Facebook. We even meet for Cocktail Hour at the local pub once a month. This group is harmless in every sense of the word and the love for each other (well, most of each other) is deep.

The problem is that Amazon and Google and all the powers that be which we don’t like to think exist, know that we all know each other and they also know that other less noble citizens are prepared to swap (or worse; PAY for) reviews and reads …..and they can’t tell us apart. We all look dodgy to them. So they remove some of our reviews, they reject others outright, and the readers of our small local library who have so kindly offered to support us, get caught in the fallout too.

It sounds like a very bad and ridiculous movie. But it isn’t. I am now watching people choosing NOT to join or create a Launch Team because they are frightened of the mix up between genuine support and the swapping of reviews or appearing to be coerced into giving one. Amazon is ruthless.

But I have to tell you, that the concept of a Launch Team is still a very good one. We just all need to be prepared to work in a MUCH wider circle, to “pay it forward” and trust that someone else entirely will do the same for us.

Soooo…. with that in mind, if the first step to a Launch Team was to create The Facebook Group to host it, now it is time to recruit. And the first tempting thing that people feel they “ought” to do is to reciprocate. But my advice is to be honest, be transparent, say why, but don’t jump onto every other persons’ Launch Team and create a virtual small circle. There are other ways to pay back and I will give a bunch of examples next time but for now give all you can to the Launch Teams that you sign up for, but don’t become too incestuous. Gather the bulk of your Launch Team members from work or school colleagues, family and distant friends. You can even ask friends if they have friends who might like to join. Advertise for some help at your local library, church, book club or corner store.

Throw the net wide, gather what you can, and if it isn’t big then that is OK too. Growing slowly is better than having dozens of people sign on but have nothing to give. Many of us have learned that the hard way. And above all, think of it as a loving, helpful, but business arrangement. They are going to get to be the first to read your book, have a say in the colours and font on the front cover, maybe even win something later on, but if they aren’t already your personal Facebook friend, then leave it that way. Keep them at a little bit of arm’s distance. You don’t have to pay them, pay them back, or give them stuff.

I have met some AMAZING people on this journey, two at least whom I hope will become real life, long term friends. But right now each of us needs to get our books out there and we need to keep our respect and help for each other at a bit of a distance. When we are both famous and have thousands of fans that the other can get lost in the middle of (as far as Amazon are concerned), then we can be Facebook friends as well. But for now, this is business guys!