Most authors I know don't consider marketing to be among their favorite aspects of publishing. While it's wonderful to make genuine connections with readers, it feels overwhelming to keep up with the latest advice and social media trends. Not to mention the sense of drowning that comes from knowing how many other writers are also out there trying to reach new readers and the ever-changing algorithms that cause the same posts that reached a large audience three months ago to now be seen by only a small gathering of crickets. In the absence of a large budget for paid advertising or a hired virtual assistant, what's an author to do?
One strategy that I've found to make marketing both more fun and more effective is to collaborate with fellow writers! Whether it's a blog, Facebook group, or virtual event, teaming up with other authors means less work for each individual plus a broader reach overall if everyone shares within his or her own network of friends and readers. Not to mention the enjoyment of getting to know your fellow authors better along the way - totally a win-win!
But not just any collaboration will work well. The wrong partnership could lead to stress and frustration, a failed project, or even damage to your author brand. As the fortunate beneficiary of a number of successful author collaborations over the years, I have a few tips for helping make your team efforts with other writers successful and enjoyable.
- Every group needs a leader (or two). I love the idea of a group that runs entirely by committee, but my practical experience has been that a group without a leader doesn't go anywhere. We all lead full, busy lives, and if no one is willing to step forward and take responsibility for a group or project, nothing is likely to get done. And while some decisions and plans are great to make with everyone's input, too many group e-mails can get tiresome and may take you in circles rather than in any forward direction. The leader doesn't have to be overbearing or forceful, but it's helpful to have someone take the reins and make executive decisions as needed to keep the project moving and avoid getting stuck in a rut. If you like the idea of working with other authors but are intimidated by the prospect of being a leader, find a co-leader! If you work well together, co-leading a project can be a fantastic way to have someone to bounce ideas off of and to build momentum together, plus it takes a bit of the pressure off!
- Know Your Goals. No marketing effort will reach every possible reader, and you wouldn't want it to! Every book has a target audience, and you want to make that the target audience of your collaborations with fellow authors. So if you write contemporary fantasy and you met a fun writer at a conference who writes historical romance, unfortunately she wouldn't be the best person to work with on a marketing project. For Lands Uncharted (a group writing effort that I like to think has been a big success!), the focus when we started the blog was young adult fantasy and science fiction. We've expanded to now cover clean fantasy and sci fi instead of just young adult and our posts have branched into other genres like historical fairy tale retellings, but having a focal point in mind has helped keep our posts interesting and relevant for our specific audience and hopefully has put our books in the hands of more readers who will enjoy them!
- Hand-Select Participants. As I mentioned above, for marketing opportunities you want to work with authors who write in a similar genre or otherwise meet specific criteria to make them a good fit for the project. But you also want people who will be fun and pleasant to work with! For a short-term project like organizing a Facebook party, it might work well to post a general invitation for collaborators and see who responds. But the larger and more long-term the project, the more important it is to work with the right people. Let's face it, certain personalities don't work well together. It's frustrating for everyone involved if one person never responds or always drops the ball. And it makes it unpleasant for both the writers and readers if someone insists on bringing up hot-button subjects or can't respond to others in a professional manner. But, just because you don't know someone well or you're not sure you'd want to collaborate with someone long-term doesn't mean you have to leave them out entirely! We love having guest authors stop by Lands Uncharted for a post or interview - it's a fun, easy way to allow more authors to share about their books and expand our own reach in the process. Plus, what starts out as a one-time guest author interaction on a blog, Facebook group, etc. can turn into a bigger collaboration later on! Many of our current Lands Uncharted bloggers first stopped by as a guest, and those positive experiences caused us to think of them when a slot for a regular blogger opened up :)
- Set Clear Expectations. Most authors have family obligations, many have a job outside of their writing, and all want to set aside plenty of time for their current and future works-in-progress! So you'll make your fellow writers a lot happier, and have much better odds that they'll actually accomplish the task you're hoping they'll complete, if you set clear expectations right from the start. For Lands Uncharted, every blogger has access to a calendar where we can see what posts we have coming up. When we invite a new contributor, we make clear how often each blogger is expected to post, how long posts should be, etc. so they know exactly what they're getting into if they (hopefully!) agree to join. In a new Facebook group I co-founded (which I'll share about below!), we set the expectation that every core member should aim to post at least once per week. Communicating clear, reasonable expectations both helps your fellow authors know what's expected and allows them to make informed decisions about whether they can truly commit to your project.