Do You Have a Tribe?

You do. You probably have a few.

I recently listened to Seth Godin’s book, Tribes. The book is about  – well – tribes.

Seth’s premise is that we all belong to tribes. These are groups of people who come together around a common experience or goal.

Seth believes that the most effective marketing happens within a tribe. For authors and publishers this idea has some significant implications.

Authors can create tribes from their fans (book readers). Think about the popular vampire series, Twilight. The fans of this series are not scattered, unconnected people across the world. They are a tribe. They connect on websites and in-person gatherings to share their common love of vampires and the story. Together these tribal fans promote and collect more tribe members. These members collectively increase the sales of the Twilight books while leaving the author free to care for her family or write more books rather than spend all her time promoting her books.

While every author may not collect as large a tribe of fans as Stephanie Meyer (the author of the Twilight series), every author can turn their fans into a tribe.

The most effective tribes involve a movement.  A movement means the fans collectively believe in and promote something.

Let me share how this can be played out for a Christian author. Consider Paulette George. Paulette has a daughter who suffered from a seizure disorder. In her quest to find a cure for her daughter’s seizures, Paulette stumbled upon a special diet. The doctor who developed the diet received his inspiration from a scripture passage. Paulette’s daughter became seizure-free when she followed the diet.

Paulette has written a book, Good Morning Beautiful, about her experience. She has the perfect opportunity to create a tribe from the people who read her book. The tribe’s movement would be to spread the word about this special diet that can help the millions of children who suffer from seizure disorders around the world. As they spread the word, more people will learn about Paulette’s book and want to read her story.

How can Paulette create a tribe? Through the use of social media.

A tribe needs a leader. The leader would be Paulette. The tribe needs a way to talk to the leader and to talk to one another so that they are, in turn, empowered to talk to their friends about this miraculous diet.

Paulette has the power of the Internet at her fingertips. With this medium, she can organize her book readers into a tribe. They can follow her on social networking sites and she can even create a social networking site for her movement (using a platform like Ning). On this site, the people in Paulette’s tribe can congregate and encourage each other.

If you are an author with a powerful message, consider how you can turn your fans into a tribe and empower them to spread your message to the world.

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A Message to Self-Published Authors

The other day I received a call from a self-published author. This gentleman told me that he had published his book through CreateSpace and was looking for someone to sell his book for him.

We spent some time discussing distributors and sales reps and what they could do for him. I told this author that regardless of whom he hired to “sell” his book, he still needed to promote his book. This gentleman told me he knew nothing about promoting or marketing a book.

When I heard this, I guided him to my book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.  I explained to him that I had written the book specifically for people in his position. I informed him that my book would give him instructions on how to market his book.

After all, I wrote the book to help others publishing Christian books. This is the resource I wish I had had starting out in publishing. Instead, I had to learn most of what is provided in this book the hard and painful way: through trial and error and stumbling upon resources here and there over a number of years.

This author asked me how much my book cost. I told him $23.99.

This gentleman then proceeded to tell me that he had just spent over $1,000 printing his book and that he did not want to spend any more money.

As gently as I could, I informed this author that he would be well advised to spend $23.99 to learn how to market his book so that he could begin to recoup the money he had spent on printing the book. Or, he could spend nothing and, a year from now, have all his books still sitting in his garage and not recouped any of the money he had spent on printing his book.

That’s the truth. Every self-published author has a choice. Spend money on marketing and promoting your book and, as a result, actually sell copies of your book – or – don’t spend money on marketing and promoting your book and not sell copies of your book.

The old adage “It takes money to make money” is still true, even in book publishing.

If you have not yet published a book but are considering doing so, you would be wise to budget at least as much money for marketing your book as you do for publishing and printing it.

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Good Enough May Not Be Right

I adore hummingbirds. A couple of years ago, after moving to North Carolina, I purchased a traditional hummingbird feeder to hang by my back porch in the hopes that it would attract hummingbirds.

Fortunately, it worked. The first year I hung the feeder, we had scores of hummingbirds. It turns out that I hung the feeder during the hummingbird migration time and many of the birds migrating farther north stopped at my feeder.

After that first season, the number of birds at the feeder stabilized to a handful that we had the pleasure of watching each morning and evening. However, that year, the sugar ants discovered the feeder and so we had a constant battle of cleaning and moving the feeder hoping that ants would not discover the new location.

This summer, the honey bees discovered the hummingbird feeder. Those bees swarmed the feeder and drained it within an hour. Each time I refilled the feeder; the bees returned and drained the nectar. With the advent of the bees, the hummingbirds could no longer use the feeder.

My husband, tired of my grousing, got on the Internet and did a little research. It turns out that the feeder I purchased does nothing to protect against ants and bees. As a matter of fact, the type of feeder we had was attractive to bees.

After a little research, my husband discovered that clever inventors had developed a hummingbird feeder designed to only feed hummingbirds. The flowers are positioned in such a way that bees cannot collect the nectar and the feeder has a moat to drown any ants attempting to reach the nectar.

I now have an ant and bee free feeder that the hummingbirds are busy draining. Yeah!

Often times, we take the easy path. We choose what is placed in front of us, as I did with my initial hummingbird feeder. However, if we take the time to look a little deeper, we often discover great products that meet our needs much better.

For instance, take the books that the member publishers of Christian Small Publishers Association produce. Many of these books are not featured prominently in book stores, but many address needs or issues that other books don’t touch.

I encourage you to take a few minutes and browse the Christian Small Publishers Association 2010 Product Catalog (just click on the catalog cover below and give it a few minutes to load) and check out the interesting niche titles.

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Are You Talking or Shouting?

Social media is hot. It is the number one activity on the Internet. Businesses are jumping on social media to promote their products.

Authors and publishers are doing the same. However, many individuals are using social media to try to promote products or services without understanding the fundamental difference between traditional advertising and marketing on social media.

With traditional advertising, businesses showed off their products. Think about advertisements that you have seen on television, heard on the radio, or read in magazines and newspapers or on billboards. Consider the direct mail postcards and flyers you receive in your snail mail box. All of these advertisements shout about the product. They all say, “Look at this.” and “Buy this product.”

Social media marketing does not use traditional marketing strategies. Social media is conversation-based.

Think of social media as a large social gathering, much like a party.

At a party, savvy individuals do not go up to strangers and say, “Hi, I’m an author and you should buy my book.” Rather, individuals engage in small talk and find common ground to converse about. If an opportunity presents itself, an individual will often divulge what they do for a living. If the other party in the conversation is interested in learning more, they will ask for more information.

That’s the way social media works. It’s a conversation.

If you are going to use social media to market your products, be conversational. Don’t shout about your books. Rather engage with others. Listen and respond. Add value to others lives by sharing information that is interesting and useful.

Once people have made a connection with you, then they will be interested in what you do. Only then will they be open to hearing about and looking at the books you write or publish.

Social media is not about showing off your products. It is about connecting with individuals. Connections build trust. Trust builds confidence. Confidence brings readers.

So be human on social media. Engage in conversation, share interesting information, and books sales will follow.

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