An author’s career is fraught with emotional ups and downs, but the author community is a hugely supportive bunch. Indie authors often band together by participating in forums, forming writing groups, cross-promoting each other’s work, or even collaborating on multi-author box sets.
For traditionally published authors, connecting with “pub siblings” is valuable not only to authors, but also to publishers housing their books. Some publishers, like HarperCollins and Bloomsbury Spark, are great about connecting their authors, as there are many benefits to fostering a community:
- Cross-promotion. When authors connect, they can help each other market their books using strategies like exchanging blurbs, participating in joint book signings, or hosting group giveaways.
- Marketing insights. These days, it’s imperative for authors to help market their own books even when they’re traditionally published. But most authors are writers first, not marketers. Instead of making them go it alone, publishers can make it easy for their authors to get support from each other by having their top marketers share effective tactics and ideas with the rest of the group.
- Idea exchange. Whether brainstorming manuscript ideas, plot points, or PR strategies, connecting authors will let them feed off each other’s creative energy.
- Writing help. Authors often seek new critique partners and beta readers. By bringing authors together who are willing to critique for each other, publishers can improve the quality of manuscripts they receive.
- Word of mouth. Authors can help spread the word about fellow authors’ releases on their social media channels, helping them reach a wider audience and build a fan base of their own.
Some imprints do more than others to connect their authors. Here are some specific things any publisher can do to foster a thriving author community:
1. Host a private online discussion forum
There are several fantastic forums out there for writers, including Kboards and Absolute Write. But authors also appreciate having even more private communities where they can discuss marketing strategy, seek writing advice, and collaborate with others who have similar publishing goals.
For example, Bloomsbury Spark, home to Jenny Kaczorowksi’s young adult books, hosts a private Facebook group for its authors. “Because it’s private,” says Jenny, “we can talk about things that aren’t public yet – share covers, announce deals. We strategize as an imprint, with a strong sense that we all succeed together. The private forum fosters both a sense of ‘we’re in this together’ and that secret club feeling.”
Private forums are easy to set up. Here are some free forum creation tools:
2. Create joint online author platforms
There are so many creative ways to generate buzz for books online, from running contests and giveaways to hosting collaborative blogs promising access to exclusive author Q&A sessions.
For example, The Jewels of Historical Romance is a website and Facebook group of 1.5K members that 12 romance authors created. They cross-promote each other’s books, hold monthly joint giveaways and contests, and announce new releases. It’s a free and creative way for each author to reach not only their own fans, but also eleven other authors’ fans.
Publishers can use similar tactics to let authors of specific genres combine forces and access a wider audience. This can be more valuable than encouraging authors to create individual fan pages, which are inherently self-promotional and difficult to build from the ground up. Groups with cross-promotional posts seem more organic, which can be more appealing to fans.
3. Facilitate author blurbs
Blurbs from well-known authors can help newer authors gain traction. They assure readers of the high quality of a new book. When readers see an author they love vetting another book, they’re more confident they’ll love this new book, too. But it can be hard for new authors to get busy big-name authors to agree to read their books, let alone their emails (simply because they get so many).
Publishers can help by soliciting endorsements from their own big-name authors. While there’s no guarantee the authors will agree, they’ll be more likely to respond to a publisher’s request for a blurb than one from someone they’ve never heard of. Connecting the two authors can be mutually beneficial as well, since the veteran will get brand exposure on a new book.
4. Host private events at big book conferences
Many authors make the trek out to big book conferences like BEA, so it’s a great opportunity to get everyone in the same room. Publishers can host an exclusive party or dinner one of the nights of the conference just for publishing house employees and authors. According to young adult author Lindsay Cummings, Greenwillow, an imprint of HarperCollins, treats authors to a team dinner at certain conferences. “That was a nice way to get to know the other ‘siblings.’”
This is a great opportunity for a publisher’s authors to meet each other in person and organically establish valuable relationships they’ll cherish (and profit from, should cross-promotional opportunities arise) for years to come.
5. Run themed promotions
Many imprints focus on specific genres, so they’re likely home to books with similar themes. For example, if an imprint is releasing three historical fiction fantasy books featuring fae, they can introduce the authors and coordinate several different types of marketing campaigns.
Here are just a few examples of opportunities for themed promotions:
- Run a coordinated price promotion over consecutive days or weeks.
- Publish a themed blog post and giveaway on the imprint’s blog.
- Host a Twitter party and create a themed hashtag to promote the three books.
- Sponsor a panel at a book conference at which the three authors discuss how fae historical fiction are the next big thing in fantasy.
The possibilities are endless, but packaging these books promotionally essentially triples each book’s audience, since each book will gain exposure across the other two authors’ platforms.
6. Organize blog tours
A blog tour is a coordinated effort in which an author makes “tour stops” at relevant blogs around the time of a new book release. These “stops” can be any of the following:
- Book reviews
- Guest post
- A combination of any of the above
While most tour stops are usually book review sites, many authors have their own blogs on which they often review books in their genre. Publishers can maintain a list of authors willing to host blog tour stops for specific genres. Once an author has a new release coming up, the publisher can reach out to these authors. This can be an imprint-exclusive blog tour, or part of a bigger blog tour strategy.
7. Coordinate joint book signings
Book signings, while not as prevalent as they once were, are still a great way to generate buzz in local communities. If publishers have three authors living in New England, it would be beneficial to all three authors to coordinate a Northeast book signing tour. Not only will the authors have guaranteed company along the way, but again, publishers will be tripling brand exposure by introducing fans of one author to the other two authors.
8. Organize panels at book conferences
Speaking on panels at book conferences is a sure way to gain exposure, whether to readers at consumer conferences or fellow authors at writing conferences. It also lets authors connect with and learn from their co-panelists. Panels can be less intimidating to authors who don’t feel comfortable speaking in front of large audiences, and it also helps authors gain exposure to fans who originally came to hear a different author speak.
9. Create an author mentor program
A publishing house is an author’s employer, and it could invest in its authors’ careers by launching a mentor program where well-established brand authors are paired with debut authors to offer advice, ideas, and camaraderie. Like companies in many other industries, creating a collaborative and supportive culture at a publishing house will likely improve employees’ morale and skill sets, not to mention helping authors become more effective writers and marketers.
There’s no doubt that when fostering author communities, authors and publishers both benefit from the experience. If you’re a traditionally published author who’s not feeling the love, share this post with your publisher and get the conversation going. It’s never too late to start a simple Facebook group or host a gathering at the next big conference!
Publishers, how have you helped foster a community for your authors? And authors, how have your publishers connected you with imprint siblings? What ideas do you have for how publishers can create author communities? Let us know in the comments below!
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