By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund
As I count down the days to the release to my first-ever YA book, An Uncertain Choice (published by Harper Collins), I've been really busy getting ready for the launch!
One of the major ways I prepare for every book's release is by forming a Launch Team (aka Influencers). In the publishing world, Influencer is often used to refer to a reader who signs up to help in the promotion of a book in exchange for a free copy of that book.
An Influencer doesn't just agree to write a review of the book. Although reviews are a big part of influencing, Influencers do SO much more than review. They share their enthusiasm about the book in countless ways (by recommending the book to their libraries, pinning the cover on Pinterest, taking pictures of themselves with the book, passing out bookmarks, etc., etc., etc.)
We all know how powerful word-of-mouth can be in marketing a book. Influencers are strategic in getting the “talk” going and can help the marketing efforts at the time of a book's release.
In gathering Influencers for past books, I've always had an open policy--as long as I have room on my list and as long as the Influencer agrees to promote the book (in a few specific ways that I ask), then I add them to my list.
For my new YA book, however, I knew I needed to narrow down my list a bit more to those who were either teens or had a circle of influence with teens. So this time, I developed an online application that potential Influencers could fill out by a specified deadline.
After going through the applications and narrowing down those who had the largest reach to teens, I emailed them a letter explaining my expectations for Influencers. If they were in agreement, then I signed them up.
Once they were signed up, I invited them to a special Facebook Group I created specifically for Influencers of An Uncertain Choice. In this "secret" group, I can communicate with everyone easily and effortlessly about promotional ideas, etc.
I have to say that this particular group has been very fun and enthusiastic! They've jumped right into the group and shared personal information, pictures, pins, reviews, and lots more. They have truly become an encouragement and blessing to me in ways I never imagined!
However, inevitably there are always those who join my group of Influencers who end up not liking my book. Obviously, readers can't predict whether they'll like a book when they sign up and agree to be an Influencer. So for those who end up not liking my book, I ask that they do two things:
1. Give their copy of the book to someone they think might enjoy it.
2. Share at least one of the other positive reviews or blog posts regarding the book.
They don't have to lie or say good things about a book they don't like. Usually they just opt not to say anything at all rather than hurt the author’s marketing efforts. I ask them to follow the old adage taught to them by their mother: "If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all."
That saying is THE key difference between Influencers and Book Reviewers.
Many Book Reviewers also get a free copy of the book (either through Net Galley or the publisher's book review program). Unlike my Influencer list which I control, I have no sway in who gets a review copy of my book.
A Book Reviewer may or may not be a fan of the author. Most often their intention is to provide a helpful review for other readers. They aren't agreeing to promote the book or author, although indirectly that can happen, particularly if they really liked the book and get excited about it. They may write a stellar review and recommend the book to others.
But a Book Reviewer can also rip the book to shreds if they don't like it. Their job is to provide a helpful and honest review. They're often asked to share that review in a number of different places (online bookstores, a blog, Goodreads, etc.).
In other words, a Book Reviewer's goal is to help the reader make wise reading choices. An Influencer's goal is to help the author with promotion.
A BIG thank you to my current launch team for being such an awesome group!
What about YOU? As writers, have you ever formed a launch team? What are some things that have worked well? What hasn't worked so well?