Being an Influencer Isn't Just About Getting a Free Book

What exactly is an Influencer? We hear that word tossed around in writing circles, especially from authors who put out requests for Influencers around the time of a book release. If you’re like me, you may have wondered what an Influencer does and if you'd ever qualify to be one.

What is an Influencer?

In the last post about ARCs, I gave a brief definition of an Influencer. Here it is again: Someone who starts some buzz and spreads the word about the new book.

I like the way author Kim Vogel Sawyer recently described the difference between Influencers and Reviewers. She said this: “An INFLUENCER is meant to ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO READ the book. . . A REVIEWER shares his/her OPINION of a book.”

An Influencer is someone who wants to help in the promotion of a book. They’re a fan of the author and desire to assist them in getting the word out to others. We all know how powerful word-of-mouth can be in marketing a book. So, Influencers are strategic in getting the “talk” going and can help the beginning marketing efforts.

A reviewer, on the other hand, can also help in the promotion—if they like the book, write a stellar review, and recommend the book to others. But a reviewer also has the option of sharing what they didn’t like. Generally, if an influencer doesn’t like a book after reading it, they should opt not to say anything at all rather than hurt the author’s marketing efforts.

Usually, Influencers receive a free book from the author or publishing house for the express purpose of promoting the author and book. In my case, Bethany House has asked me to put together a spreadsheet of 50 influencers with names and addresses. In a month or two, I’ll send them my list. Then they’ll mail copies of The Preacher’s Bride to all those who expressed interest in helping promote the book.

How does an Influencer encourage others to read the book?

I’m learning there are numerous ways to carry out the role of Influencer. For a detailed look at the various things an Influencer can do to help promote a book, check out author Deb Raney’s article: How Can You Help Promote a New Book? It has many excellent, practical ideas.

Here’s a small summary of what Influencers can do:

• Write a review for an online site: a bookstore (like Amazon), a reader hang-out (like Goodreads).
• Write a review for a print newspaper, magazine, or newsletter.
• Talk to your local bookstores or public libraries. If they don’t carry the book, give them your copy to review and encourage them to order it.
• Offer to host an interview or review on your blog; use your influencer copy as a book giveaway.
• Post tweets or facebook comments about the book.
• Donate a copy of the book to your church or school library.
• Offer to distribute bookmarks, postcards, or other promotional items.
• Start discussions about the book in groups/organizations you’re apart of (either online or in real life).

The possibilities are limitless. You could even "drop leaflets while parachuting from an airplane" (as Deb Raney jokes in her article). The key is finding ways to spread the news and get others excited about the book.

The role of Influencer is important. No one should offer to be one without first giving weight to the author, if the book is a genre they like, and whether they have the time to read and promote the book. Sure, Influencers get a free book, but there is a cost involved in making a concerted effort to do the promotional work we signed up for.

I’m filling up my 50 slots fairly quickly. But if you’re interested in being an Influencer for The Preacher’s Bride please let me know in the comments. Leave your email address, along with how you’d be willing to promote the book. At the end of the week, I’ll pick from those expressing the most interest.

If you’re not interested in being an official Influencer, you won’t offend me in the least! As I said, the Influencer job is not one to take lightly and we shouldn’t do it if we honestly can’t make the time or effort to promote the book.

**Additional Note: Some have pointed out in their comments that we can be Influencers for one another informally, without signing up for the free Influencer book. Roxane mentioned: "That's what friends are for." And I agree--we support and help one another anyway! Thanks to everyone who's cheered me on in one form or another! I appreciate your friendships!

Have you ever been an Influencer before? What kinds of things did you do or have you seen done to help promote another author’s book? Do you think Influencers can really make a dent in the marketing effort? Tell me your thoughts! I’m curious!

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