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.
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.
- 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?