How To Find A “Tribe” When Marketing Your Book

Welcome to post #2 in the Book Marketing series! Last month, I we concluded that the heart of marketing is tribe (aka: relationship.) So the “new name” of book marketing is… Tribe Building.

WHY TRIBE?

Here’s what Michael Hyatt has to say about marketing in his NY Times bestselling book, Platform:

Marketing is dead…in the world of social media, it has morphed. Dramatically. Tribe-building is the new marketing. Marketing is no longer about generating transactions it is about building relationships.

Tribes get your book to the rest of the world.

Tribes spread the news naturally. Think of Harry Potter–that was written for kids. It mainly spread via word of mouth because of the reader’s relationship with J. K. Rowling’s writing, and the way she treated her readers.

When we make friends online, we need to be authentic and we need to set aside our agendas. We must make friends because we value people, not because we want to get something out of the relationships. – Kristen Lamb, Rise of the Machines

Nobody wants to market by shouting, “Buy my book!” And yet, that’s what always pops into our heads when we think “marketing.” Screaming a sales pitch is not appealing to us (the authors) and that means it most definitely won’t be appealing to your readers.

So you need to build a tribe.

According to Seth Godin, a tribe is “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” ( — Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.) To build a tribe  means re-orienting your thinking about marketing. I expect you to chant to yourself all week: “Marketing equals tribe building. Marketing equals tribe building. Marketing equals tribe building.

Do it until the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word marketing is…tribe building.

HOW DO YOU BUILD A TRIBE?

1) Be authentic.

If you were to go up to your mom and say, “I’m writing a book and it’s finally published! Look!” She wouldn’t think, “Ugh, stop shoving your agenda and your book in my face.” She would be excited for you and excited with you. She will buy your book because she believes in you and because she wants to be part of what you’re doing. Because she is part of your tribe.

That is how marketing should be. You want to have loyal followers who are also friends. You want people to connected to and engaged with you so much, that they love your books for multiple reasons.

Obviously, hopefully it’s good, but they’ll also like it because you wrote it. They are committed to you.

You can’t be bosom buddies with everyone, but you can be authentic and real with everyone. Authenticity will show through.

Let’s take Marissa Meyer for example. She’s the author of The Lunar Chronicles–Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, etc. She is hardly ever on social media, but when she is she’s real. When she sends out a newsletter it feels like we’re chatting over tea. And when you meet her in person at a book signing with hundreds of other readers, she’ll give a genuine smile and hug and treat you like a long-lost friend.

Because of her realness and accessibility, she has a loyal-beyond-loyal fanbase. And those fans know that she can’t deeply connect with each of them. But they know–from her authenticity–that she totally would if she could.

2) Find your audience (Age, demographic)

A lot of times, authors will say, “Well my book is for everyone.” But you can’t reach everyone. Let the word of mouth spread. Jesus’s message was for everyone, too, but he stayed in Israel and spread the news there. He didn’t hop on a camel and travel through every country and up into Europe, etc. Neither should you.

This is why you need a tribe. You can find your audience by getting to know your targeted age group. Observe. Study. Take part.

  • What are their likes and dislikes?
  • Where are they hanging out? If you’re writing for young adults—teens and up—then they’re probably hanging out on the bookish blogs or Loki fandoms and singing Hamilton all the time.
  • What struggles do they face in their current stage of life?

3) Try to understand your audience.

My target audience for my books is young adults. And I know that readers who like YA books tend to prefer hardcovers. They also like taking book photos, and collecting bookish candles, and they have fandoms. So I hang out on Instagram. I take pictures of my books. I also collect bookish candles (because I can’t get enough of them!) and I find the people hanging out in my same fandoms.

Connect with real similarities and authenticity, but also be willing to learn about their individual passions.

This can only be done through relationship.

4) Building your tribe can also start with friends and family.

Your tribe is made of people loyal to you. You often have something in common. Tribes are friendships, but you happen to be the leader.

A tribe is kind of like a fandom…but this is a fandom over you and your writing.

5) Tribe building starts with being intentional and inviting people in to what you’re doing.

In short:

  • Seek out readers who read the stuff you write.
  • Seek out people who like the things you like.
  • Then take part. Be active. BE REAL. Make friends. And be patient while your numbers grow.

LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY NINJAS.

I have a core tribe called Nadine’s Ninjas. They’re my “street team” that helps spread the word about my books. They are part of my tribe.

 

Some people on that team don’t even like my books. In fact, one of them gave my first book a rather rabid 2-star review, and yet we still became friends and she joined my team. That’s because that relationship goes far deeper than any attempt to sell product or spout our own praises. The relationship will often go deeper than the book itself.

There are books that I enjoy more because I like or respect or have a friendship with the author. It’s natural for us to like things that have been done by people we like.

So tribe building is really building friendships–or at least acquaintances–that are genuine and authentic.


How do you feel about building a tribe? What intimidates you? What do you look forward to?

Any questions? Points I missed?

 

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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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20 Comments

  1. Hello!!! I’ve been trying to build my tribe for about six months now. I think I’ve been pretty successful (even though most of my Facebook followers are friends and family 😛 ) And I have seen my blog get gradually better. My biggest struggle is that I feel like I need to be doing something different because I’m not published yet, or even signed on with an agent. Is there a different approach I should be using in this case?

    • Friends and family ARE your tribe! And they’re the start of every new author’s tribe as well. 🙂 While unpublished, just focus on trying to grow and interact on your social media (that will be a future post.) Connect with other bookworms and readers, etc. Then when you do have a book come out, you will have more friends and people interested in reading it and spreading the word.

  2. Good stuff! Thank you, Nadine!

  3. Good reminder! Sometimes it feels like I’m spinning my wheels. I appreciate what you said about Jesus sticking to his home base…great example!

    • Growing and connecting with people is a very slow process and that’s why it’s important to be comfortable with “slow growth” that is authentic growth! 🙂

  4. I am a tribal reader. Friends probably get sick of me singing the praises of my favorite authors because I do it, a lot. If I have a favorite author, I will read all of her books. Pre-order her books. I’ll read her grocery list if she posts it online. It’s working The Out of Time series has a second generation. This morning my third grader skipped off to school with A Time to Die in her backpack.

  5. Rolena Hatfield

    Begins chanting to self, “marketing equals tribe building”. I love this. Most intimidating factor is knowing that I’ll be the leader of my tribe. (people will be watching me!) But I look forward most to the friendships that can be built. Thank you for sharing, Nadine!

    • *gold star for chanting*
      It can definitely be intimidating, but when you’re surrounded by friends and readers who enjoy your work, then it becomes more and more easy to be yourself and share life as a friendship instead of “leader-to-follower”

  6. This was epic, Nadine! Loved hearing all your advice on building a Tribe – and that picture of you and Marissa Meyer is so epic, I’m totally jealous 😀 . And your tips about “trying to understand your audience” were awesome (and it is VERY MUCH TRUE that we love love love hardcovers <3 <3 <3). And I just recently joined the street team so *bows to ninja leader Nadine*.

    One of my biggest struggles is the fact that I want to appear professional on social media, but a lot of the people who read my blog are teens like me, and I like to have fun, too. So it's hard deciding what I should post (what if someone reads this that I'd rather NOT see me posting stuff like this?) and what I shouldn't post. Because sometimes I still want to post things just for the fun of it (like tags, or funny posts about NaNoWriMo mishaps) but then I'd PROBABLY wish I hadn't if I heard that someone who always carries themselves professionally on social media had read it. And WHOA that was quite a ramble, sorry. But where do you think the line falls between having fun and being professional for an aspiring author on social media?

    • As a reader (/aspiring writer), Savannah, it’s my personal opinion that unless you’re writing non-fiction or something particularly ‘professional’, I’d much rather see the human side of an author! NaNoWriMo mishaps? YASS. This author is human like us! His/her books are likely to be at least a little relatable!

      I can’t speak for publishing industry professionals, though… 😐

      • Oh my goodness Savannah… I was just wondering how to sum up the SAME QUESTION and you sort of did it perfectly. xD So I’m just going to be over here stalking to see what Nadine’s answer is… NO PRESSURE NADINE. 😛

  7. Rolena Hatfield

    Begins chanting to self, “marketing equals tribe building”. I love this. Most intimidating factor is knowing that I’ll be the leader of my tribe. (people will be watching me!) But I look forward most to the friendships that can be built. Thanks for this, Nadine!
    …continues chanting “marketing equals tribe building”.

  8. Polaris Northstar

    This. Is. AWESOMENESS!!!!!

  9. Great thoughts, Nadine! I really love how you emphasized tribe building. I think a lot of times the notion of “marketing” conjures up negative images in people’s minds of someone pushing to sell a product, being spammy and sleazy in the process. But at the end of the day, the goal should be to provide value to your community, your tribe. As writers, I think we have a fantastic opportunity to make those meaningful, personal connections that are mutually beneficial.

  10. I’m nowhere close to publishing yet, but I love the idea of marketing being grass-roots fandom-building! (and once you’ve got a few rabid fangirls they’ll spread their love to everyone their lives touch!) xD

  11. Pingback: 7 Book Marketing Challenges and How to Overcome Them | Authors Crib Digest

  12. Nice post. Regards, Phil

  13. Pingback: What's At The Heart of Book Marketing? - Nadine Brandes

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