Penny Sansevieri 2018Guest post by Penny Sansevieri

Did you know that 95% of books are sold via personal recommendation?

There is no doubt that the biggest source of sales for just about any type of product is personal recommendations. Remember the last time you heard a friend tell you that XYZ was an awesome product, or book or kitchen widget? You probably went right away to Amazon, or Etsy or wherever you shop online and looked it up, and very likely, you bought it, too.

That’s why when it comes to marketing your books, you need to tap into the power of personal recommendation. So that’s what this article explores: how to harness this power and build on it to grow your book sales.

And a big part of that is going to be super fans and street teams, and their value to you as an author as micro-influcencers.

Super Fans, What You Must Know

When Days of Our Lives 45th year anniversary rolled around, we had a project that focused around it. So what does this long-running soap opera have to do with book marketing and street teams? More thank you think. Because very few industries that understand the power of fans like soap operas do.

During the Daytime Emmy’s that I ran into a woman (a fan) who saw me walking around with a copy of the Days of Our Lives 45th year anniversary book and asked me if I was with the show. Without even waiting on a response, she dove right in and said that she was annoyed at the lack of design creativity of the show. In fact, she’d noticed that the throw pillows at one mansion, were being used in other homes, as well. She asked me if I could do anything about it. Actually, she insisted I look into it and (once again) without waiting on a response, she strode away.

And while you may not understand why someone would pay such close attention to details like throw pillows, I will tell you this: Throw pillow woman is exactly the kind of fan you want. She is a super fan.

What are Super Fans?

Super fans are your highly engaged fan base. For authors, your super fans have probably already requested your next book. They review your books on Amazon, and they probably even comment on or like most of your social posts.  Bottom line: You want these people on your team because they will help you market your books.

An author I know has an awesome street team filled with these super engaged fans. They love everything she does. They are so excited when she launches a book that she has 100+ reviews within days of its release.

I know another author who uses her super fans as a sounding board. She run book ideas, cover designs, and even some characters by them. So why would she ask these non-publishing peoples for advice? Because they are readers. More importantly, they will tell you what they like, as well as what they’d like to see more of and what they’d like to see less of.

A romance author I speak with often has a special Facebook group for her super fans. Whenever she needs help getting more reviews or getting the word out about her book, they are there to help her.

Every. Single. Time.

That level of book marketing is invaluable. So you need to find a way to tap into this power as well! I’ll show you how.

Small Can Be Powerful

When I talk about street teams and super fans at author events and conferences, I often ask for guesses on the number of super fans an author needs to accomplish this. The answers often are 5,000 or 10,000 – and sometimes even higher!

In reality, you don’t need anywhere near this many people (although if you do, good for you!) Most of the authors I mention have lists of smaller than 100 people, and one author’s list is only 25. Small is powerful.

Statistically speaking, smaller, empowered groups have more book marketing potential than big, often unfocused lists. These smaller segments, often referred to as micro-influencers, can have a bigger impact on sales than you may think. Why? Because their followers tend to more dedicated. They see all their posts, they’ve engaged with this person and they often jump to buy anything they recommend. When I talk about micro-influencers, I’m speaking of someone with 1,000 or fewer followers. These are tightly engaged communities, that tend to offer more authentic voices.

In all honesty, I’m more likely to seek out social media people with these small, tight communities. It’s not just because they’re easier to get to, but also because their average response rate is often ten times that of someone with 100,000 or more followers.

When it comes to book marketing, often more is not better, sometimes it’s just more.

What’s a Street Team vs. a Super Fan?

You’ve heard me talking about both super fans and street teams, so what’s the difference? Well super fans, by definition, love everything you do. If you write fiction, they’ve reviewed all of your books, and they love your characters. For non-fiction authors, they follow all of your advice.

So that’s a super fan.

Street teams take this to a new level.

In addition to engaging with you, they also often help with your book promotion. This list needs to be very carefully vetted, and not every super fan will wind up on your final street team list. That’s ok. You still want both types of people!

Getting Started With Your Street Team

First, you must define what you want their help with. So, maybe you need your street team to share book updates, and launches on their social media, or with their mailing list. You need to figure this out first before you outline what they’ll get in return.

Maybe your gift to them is a free copy of every book you release (as long as they are in the group). Remember the power of free. It can be a really strong idea to give them the opportunity to read your books, because they have the ability to reach so many more people. Giving them one book will pay off for you in big ways.

But if giving a book isn’t what you had in mind, maybe there’s another option here. You could invite them to become a part of your book marketing or book production strategy team, helping you decide on cover designs or character names. You could create a private group on Facebook that they have special access to, which readers love!

Identifying Your Street Team

Now that you’ve defined what you’re requesting and also what you’re giving them, it’s time to start building your team! You can start by reaching out to your super fans, or simply sending a personal email to the folks on your existing mailing list. Some authors create actual street team pages on their websites with details on expectations, and they offer an application form to become a street team member. If you keep it official, it shares the message that you’re very serious about building your street team/book marketing tribe!

When we built our street team form, we asked folks specifically how strong their social media connections were, but we were also clear up front what they got in return. You can see how we set this up here.

Being a part of this exclusive group can be extremely beneficial. And it’s important to remember that you are asking for their help, so you need to make it worth it to them with appealing benefits.

Be Clear on Expectations

Be sure to outline very clearly what you’re going to ask of your street team from the very beginning. In fact, your street team will appreciate understanding your expectations up front.

This might mean that you build a schedule for your book release (or releases if you have multiple titles) that includes when you want your street team to announce it to their social media followers. An aspect of this may include an opportunity for your followers to share with their own newsletter, especially if it’s particularly strong or responsive.

Some basic things you may want to ask them to do include:

  • Posting reviews on each new book you publish within five days of it going live on Amazon. To do this you must be able to get them ARCs far enough in advance to ensure they get to read them.
  • Posting social media announcements during launch week so that their followers know this book is releasing, and when and where they can buy it.
  • Sharing your eBook promos. You may want to consider limiting this type of share to one or two so they aren’t overwhelmed with action items.

The possibilities for this are endless, but these are a few ideas to get you started.

Organize Resources

If you want people to share your book and promotions, you really want to make it easy for them. This includes putting together images that they can share so they don’t have to create their own. (You can read more different kinds of images here.) And as a bonus, this helps you to stay on brand better, so that your outreach has a more consistent look and feel. Plus, it makes things easier for everyone.

So how do you make these accessible to them? I recommend creating a Drive file or a Dropbox with images that you refresh, whenever needed. This also offers a solid way to keep a list of instructions, launch dates, etc. so it’s all right there for them!

Staying on Top of the Rules and Follow Through

If you’ve clearly outlined what you expect of your street team (as well as what you’ve promised them), then it should be quite easy to generate excitement with your team and your book promotions!

Membership in your exclusive group requires participation. So don’t hesitate to let folks know (nicely) if they aren’t doing the work they signed up for. People get busy, stuff happens, maybe they want to pause their street team status and return later. Whatever their reason, you will want to stay on top of this, which is why smaller group often is a good place to start.

I can’t recommend highly enough the power of super fans and street teams for your book marketing efforts. And if you need to start collecting emails, you can start by adding a letter at the end of your book that encourages readers to write directly to you and visit your website. I talk often about how important this is. And, as you start to get emails, be sure to respond to the conversation they start. Thank them for reading, and then start building your tribe.

Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Visit to learn more.

Join us December 5, 2018 as Penny shares more on this topic during our weekly teleseminar series.