by Ian Acheson
Over the last two years there has been an increase in authors establishing teams of readers, or a Launch Team, to assist in the launch process.
I’ve been a member of a few such teams for authors in both the fiction and non-fiction worlds. Some teams have ended with the launch and others have continued on to include further book releases. The first one I joined two years ago, is still running, and has evolved across a further two or three content launches.
I don’t have any numbers that reveal whether these teams have been successful or not from the perspective of driving book sales. I’d suggest there have been mixed results, some being more successful than others.
What is a Launch Team?
Simply put, it’s a group of people who actively support the release of a novel. It generally involves the author inviting people via FB posts, Tweets, and/or emails, and offering to provide them with some “exclusives”. In return, the team members will promote the release with reviews, social media postings and such like. Think of the team as your inner tribe and/or cheer squad.
Why form a Launch Team?
There are obvious potential quantitative reasons for doing it. However, some other significant benefits can also be derived.
1. Drive pre-sale demand on Amazon
Chip MacGregor wrote a good blog post on this very topic a week or so ago that explains how it works. Essentially, all pre-sales get recorded as sales on the first day of release. This drives the Amazon algorithm and rank, plus drives interest from other readers.
2. Increase reviewer numbers at launch date
You may have Blog Tours running to coincide with the launch plus other programs but the launch team can add to this volume of early reviewers.
3. Team members invest in the author
This is perhaps my favourite reason for joining a team. It’s clear from some teams I’m part of there are a number of members who have invested in the author. Not just from buying, reading, reviewing and promoting the author’s work but more significantly in prayerful support and encouragement. The tribe is also a great source of ideas for authors.
4. Team members invest in each other
Similarly, there is a delightful camaraderie that has developed within some of the teams. When prayer is needed, the call goes out. In recent days, there has been an instance where one person asked for prayer and within days had other entire prayer communities petitioning the Lord due to other people’s prayer chains being engaged.
5. Authors establish closer ties to key people in their tribe
Certainly there are many other ways authors are able to connect with readers. But as with any relationship, these ones build over time and I’ve seen authors seek out their tribe for advice on new material, promotional ideas, covers, their website appearance, etc. The team becomes an author’s unofficial Mastermind group.
As you’d expect what may work for one author may not work for another.
1. The size of your Launch Team is likely to reflect the size of your existing following
I don’t think a Launch team is a short cut solution to getting a massive following. A subset of your existing community of followers will provide the core of the launch team. But over time this can build.
2. The author needs to actively participate
Teams need leaders. For a new team to gain momentum, the author needs to get things moving and keep checking in regularly. This will create momentum and the members will start to become active participants.
3. The old 80/20 rule probably applies
This is purely based on my observations but generally 80% of team activity is driven by 20% of members. This may also apply to pre-sales and reviews, etc., but I don’t know. Chat with an author who has run one.
4. Meeting Place
Some authors have used closed Facebook groups, others email combined with blog updates. The Facebook option is more conducive to greater conversational interactivity between members particularly in a short period of time. However, email provides enhanced quantitative measures in terms of response rates and such.
5. When to start it
Mike Hyatt provides some great information on his “Platform” launch team in this post. He recommends four weeks prior to launch.
6. Be creative
In what you name the group, in what you offer the members and what you bring to the team. Readers love getting first hand access to authors and to exclusive content.
As a reader I’ve enjoyed all the teams I’ve participated in. If one of your favorite authors, fiction or non-fiction, puts out the call for a launch team, I’d encourage you to join. You’ll benefit observing some of the inside machinations of a launch process and be able to visualize your own future launch team.
I’m keen to establish one when I launch my next novel. It would be great to hear from others who have experienced a launch team, either as an author or reader?
Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Sydney, Australia. Ian’s first novel, Angelguard, is now available in the USA, Canada, UK and Australia. Visit Ian at his website and on his author Facebook page.