The term “street team” is also used for fans who adore specific artists, bands, or causes. Kind of like groupies… but more respectable. And useful.
I say useful, because an author street team for your book can be a powerful marketing tool. Consider that the most influential form of marketing is word-of-mouth recommendations, especially for the book industry.
So, if you have a group of, say, 500 reader fans who love your books, then you’ve got 500 individual marketers out there helping you with promotion.
In fact, an author street team could be the most effective way for your book—and writing fame—to go viral.
But it all depends on the street team you put together, and with what goals.
Types of Author Street Teams
Street teams for authors come in a variety of forms. They’re customized based on the author’s needs and no two are managed the same way.
Thanks to the ease and accessibility of Facebook, a lot of authors set up private Facebook groups where their street teams can meet.
Others use email or physical mailing lists, while still others have private forums within their personal websites.
It starts by putting a call out to potential fans. You could post something on your website or within your social media channels.
Then, ideally… someone will answer. Maybe you’ll discover 100 readers who were thrilled by your book. Maybe it’ll just be your best friend. And your mother.
Whatever you get, it’s a start. And it will grow.
Once you have a few members in your team, you start communicating. Some authors honor their street team members by sending them swag. Others give them sneak peeks of their works in progress.
And then when you have a new book about to debut, or a contest, or even an interview, you ask your street team to spread the word.
Why Readers Join Author Street Teams
We live in a world of increasing connection. From social media to video conferencing, we’ve to come to expect a high level of interaction from others.
And this is no different when it comes to writing. Readers want authentic interaction with their favorite authors, whether that author writes physical books or writes a blog.
They want to get to know the author better, find out what their life is like, and learn more about their personal story.
Think about how you’d feel if you were part of an elite group run by your favorite author. A group that gave you access to that author’s newest works, where you got to enjoy a glimpse of the inner-workings of that author’s life and mind.
That’s kind of what a street team is for fans, or at least what it has the potential to be.
It creates a feeling of inclusion for readers, and it lets authors put names and faces on fans instead of just thinking of them as buyers.
This doesn’t mean your author street team is necessarily the place to express your political views or share too many personal details. It’s still important to keep your street team mainly focused on your books and your writing.
Another benefit for authors is that it gives you someone to share your journey with. After all, writing is solitary by nature. It’s nice to connect with people who appreciate your work.
Are Author Street Teams Worth It?
In our information age, it can be hard to stand out from the all the noise.
But author street teams can take advantage of a much more established and well-respected way of marketing – word of mouth.
All of us will pay more attention to something a friend of family member tells us than any advertising messages we’re exposed to.
And this is the value of an author street team. They’re your voice on the street, as their name suggests. And if you have a committed street team that respects your work, this can be an invaluable way to let others know about you and your business.
Building an author street team can be a smart move, considering it’s relatively free and creates a positive connection with your fans.
It takes some time and commitment, but a loyal street team can give your publicity as an author a real boost.
How to Start Your Author Street Team
The process of starting a street team is different for every author, and it often evolves and grows with your writing career.
The first step is really as simple as getting the word out.
You can announce it on your website, through social media, in a podcast or interview, at book signings, or even in the acknowledgements section of your book.
For example, author Bella Andre has a dedicated webpage on her author site that invites readers to join her street team, which you can check out here. She provides a link to her private street team Facebook page and explains what members get to enjoy.
She also talks about what the street team does for her — which is a move I applaud. Plus, it’s a way to make her readers feel useful.
Start with these steps to make sure your street team hits the ground running:
- Give your street team a name that readers can identify with, or get them to choose their own name.
- Provide an outline of what you’re looking for in a street team member. Do they have to be avid fans of all your books? Is it okay if they’ve only ever read one of your books?
- Set guidelines, like what readers can expect and what you’d like in return.
- Set boundaries that explain what kind of access members get to you and what their privileges are.
- Add a page to your author website that explains all street team details, and then share that page over your social media channels.
- Ask someone to manage the group on a daily basis. You could do this, but you also need to be protective of your writing time. Consider hiring a friend or an author assistant for this position.
- Consider sending new group members a physical welcome package full of author swag, like bookmarks with your photo and tagline, free books, something signed by you, a magnet with book cover art, etc.
How to Engage Your Author Street Team
Once you’ve laid the groundwork for your author street team, it’s time to start engaging your fans.
The following are some effective ways to start getting people excited about your writing.
1. Give Out Advance Copies of Your Book
Tim Ferriss nailed this approach when he wrote The 4-Hour Body. Prior to publication, he gave away a thousand advance copies of the book. This translated to roughly 200 positive reviews on Amazon the first week the book was released.
He also sent recipients of his book an email marked “urgent” on the day the book came out. The email message asked people to take 30 seconds to review the book.
Another author I read about gave advance ebook copies of her new book to the first 100 people on her Facebook fan page who signed up to be part of her author street team. This translated to ten reviews a day during the first five days of her book launch.
2. Show Yourself
Ever notice how movie stars make the rounds on daily and nightly talk shows in the weeks and days right before a new movie comes out?
It’s how they build buzz. It’s an effort to appear accessible and likable so people perk up and get interested in the movie. It’s especially an effort to get a big turnout the first week their movie debuts, so it registers as a hit.
The same is possible in the book world. If you can organize a pre-publication blog tour, or get featured on a podcast, or even do a Facebook page takeover prior to your book coming out, then you’ll build buzz.
As an extra perk for your street team, you can also provide them private access to you before or after book signings at book stores or conferences.
The goal is to get your name out there and get noticed by potential readers and buyers.
If you do any of this, be sure to ask your street team fans to spread the word about your engagements.
3. Build Buzz for Others First
Not sure how to get someone to interview you? Then interview them. Target a favorite author in your writing niche and ask to interview them over the phone or via Zoom.
There’s a good chance their fans (and your prospects) will tune into what that author has to say, and in so doing might notice your own name and work.
Tap your street team for ideas on who to interview. Who are their other favorite authors? By asking their opinions and reaching out to someone they want to learn more about, you’ll improve your bond with your own fans.
Author Sarah Pekkanen regularly interviews other writers and posts these on her Facebook page. Another author she partners with, named Greer Hendricks, often co-hosts the interviews, and they call the interview series #Better2gether.
This is a great example of building meaningful connections with other writers and creating something everyone’s fans will enjoy and engage with.
4. Be Accessible
Another benefit you can offer your street team is greater access to you personally.
You don’t have to be consistently available and share intimate details of your life, but engaging with your street team on a more personal level will help build rapport. It can also be a lot of fun.
Try some of these ideas for sharing more of yourself with your street team on social media or your website:
- Monthly or quarterly group chats with you answering questions
- Votes on cover art
- Contests and giveaways
- Personal photos and info about your life, such as a photo of you playing with your dog… it may not be something you’d share in an “official” photo, but it’s a tasteful, friendly way for your fans to get to know you better
- Insider information on things that inspire you to write, or stories about inspiration behind your current books
- Requests for feedback on unpublished scenes and undeveloped characters
- Sharing bonus scenes
- Badges for readers to post on their own websites that designate them as your street team member
5. Ask for What You Want
Nonfiction author of parenting books Meagan Francis gave a webinar before one of her books came out. During the webinar, she invited participants to apply to be part of her 100-person launch team (i.e., street team).
She told them they’d be writing reviews, blogs, and sharing news about the book via social media, as well as giving her feedback on things like marketing tactics and the book’s cover design.
By letting readers know exactly what she hoped they’d do for her, she didn’t have to sit with her fingers crossed in hopes someone eventually felt nice enough to write her a review.
6. Put on a Virtual Book Signing
I can’t say traditional book signings look appealing from an author standpoint. The few I’ve gone to have had low turnouts, and I often hear later that the authors were discouraged.
Unless you’re a superstar author with clout, it’s hard to get people in the door of a local book shop.
The solution is to hold a virtual book signing, something author Margaret Atwood first started experimenting with years ago after growing tired of endless travel.
And now that remote signing devices are available, letting you inscribe books in far-off locations without ever leaving your home, signing books virtually is possible. Granted, you have to have a bookstore onboard with the process so they can supply the other end of the device.
If that’s not doable, host an online meet-and-greet — on Facebook, for example — and offer readers the chance to send in their books for a personalized signing.
Some authors request a check be enclosed to cover the cost of return shipping; some authors cover the cost themselves. Or, they can order the book directly from you via your website and when you ship it to them, you personalize it to them.
Is There a Downside to Street Teams?
Author street teams aren’t without criticism. While some see them as encouraging groups that want to support an author’s work, others see the whole process as a way to trade giveaways for favors (like book reviews or free word-of-mouth advertising).
Romance and new adult author Cora Carmack has a unique approach to this. In gratitude for all the effort her street team puts into promoting her work, she shares early drafts of new scenes with them.
She’s even been known to let her street team name a few characters. She sees it as a way to say thank you and to include her fans in the writing process.
Authors can dodge the criticism of buying off fans by being genuine. Be accessible to your readers. Share openly. Comment willingly. Build trust. And importantly, be consistent over time.
Don’t just dive in and post incessantly for a few weeks before your new book comes out. Readers will see through your tactics in a heartbeat.
Treat your author street team as a long-term marketing strategy, and give your readers the respect they deserve. Don’t expect anything from them and be grateful for anything you get.
If you have misgivings about creating a street team, try it out anyway.
It’s common for those of us on the other side — the authors — to worry no fan (besides your relatives) could ever be interested enough in your work to join a street team.
Plenty of authors feel this way, and so they’re shocked when five people want to join… then another 10… then 30 more.
On the flipside, know that not everybody who signs up to be part of your street team will be as dedicated to you and your books as you might hope they are. Some fans could be crazy for you. Some fans might sign up out of curiosity more than anything else.
Over time, chances are good only a small group of your fans will stay active and committed. And that’s okay.
To connecting with true fans of your writing,