Thursday, February 18, 2021

Authors: Use a Group Hug to Increase Sales and Exposure - A Study

 














So someone has asked you to join a group of authors. Let’s do a blog. Let’s do a bookset. Let’s support each other on social media. Let’s cross-promote our works.

What am I getting into? Will I gain exposure and more sales? Is it worth the time?

The Team

A small groups of like-minded authors.

A good manager/leader is essential to the success.

Member selection is a major part of the process.

Established a set of goals and objectives.

Scheduled set of duties and projects.

Willing to commit the time and resources.

It was time to do a study of the author groups and the teamwork needed to succeed. As I usually do, I seek advice from my Spotlight Crew. They are a group of authors I have interviewed during the years (over 1300 interviews and book showcases since 2012). I have included some of the information from their answers related to groups for this study and their interviews.

For authors, there are advantages to joining a group of like-minded authors. Forming a bound to a group of active authors has a great upside. And there is the other side. You are making a commitment to work with the other authors and spent time and resources to aid the team.

QUESTION - Group hug study questions

Authors: Using a Group Hug to Increase Exposure

I am putting together a study on how author groups work together to gain exposure to a reading audience. Lately, I have noticed that authors are forming smaller groups to help sell their books.

I would like to have a quote from you about author groups and your involvement. I will highlight your quote with contact information including your name and brief description.

Here is an idea of the kind of information I’m looking for.

1.      What individual author support groups do you belong too? Who put the group together? Who coordinates the group?

2.      What are the main objectives? (sales, exposure, marketing, etc.)

 

3.      Do you do booksets together? Other activities?

Indie Chicks

The first group of authors I wrote about was the Indie Chicks in 2012. They were a group of outstanding authors who were formed to publish a anthology with the proceed going to charity.

Speaking of synergy, this is a small group of outstanding women writers who are together for the long haul. They support each other in many ways: keeping a constant flow of twitter chatter, supporting each other’s books and marketing activities and doing group writing projects. They keep up a constant swirl of activity on the social network.

Indie Chicks: 25 Women 25 Personal Stories - B0060ZTM62

M.A. Comley - Katherine Owen - Donna Fasano - Melissa Foster - Carol Davis Luce - Sibel Hodge - Cheryl Shireman

This exciting anthology contains stories from twenty-five women from different parts of the world. Their ages differ, as do their backgrounds and locations, but one thing they all have in common is a spirit of independence and a determination to not only succeed, but prevail. Whether their struggles are to maintain balance between motherhood and career, escape from an abusive relationship, or to step out in faith and pursue a dream, all of these women have forged their own path.

All proceeds from this book will go to various charitable organizations. Our prayers and best wishes are with those who are struggling with this terrible and devastating disease.

Gathered by Cheryl Shireman, the Indie Chicks are a group of women writers who enjoy supporting and encouraging other women writers. We have all published in various ways - independently, with traditional publishers, or by combining both methods. No matter how published, we have one thing in common - a love of writing and an independent spirit. In our ranks, you will find much-acclaimed bestsellers and also a few writers who are just starting out. We live in various parts of the world and come from a variety of backgrounds.

Cheryl Shireman @cherylshireman

Cheryl is the author of the 'Life is But a Dream' series and the 'Cooper Moon' series among many novels. She also writes children's books. She is the founder of the'Indie Chicks' writing group.

I love the Indie Chicks. This is such an extraordinary group of writers. When I first came up with the idea of the Indie Chicks, I discarded the idea immediately. It seemed like such a huge idea - fraught with so many logistical problems. But the idea kept returning.

And, eventually, I could no longer ignore the idea. I came up with a list of my “dream team” of women writers and started contacting them. I asked them if they’d like to be part of a group of women writers who worked together to support and encourage one another, not only in writing but sometimes in life. Almost all of the women I contacted replied with a heart.
 

Donna Fasano @Donna_Fasano

Donna is an award-winning author. She writes Sweet Romance novels.

“I am so lucky to a part this group of talented women. They offer support and a wealth of knowledge, and they're always willing to help in any way they can. I believe the book (Indie Chicks: 25 Independent Women 25 Personal Stories) is successful because we wrote our stories from the heart. When emotion is poured into a story, readers can't help but notice.”

Authors Billboard - https://authorsbillboard.com/

Next is a current group of Romance authors who have devoted themselves to working together to gain exposure and sales.

Mimi Barbour @MimiBarbour

Mimi is a NYT & USA Today, best-selling, and award-winning author. She writes Romance, Paranormal, and Suspense novels. 

I founded a group in 2016 called The Authors’ Billboard https://authorsbillboard.com with the sole idea of having a joint hashtag #mgtab (stands for Mimi’s Gang the Authors’ Billboard) for Twitter, one we could all use for promoting on social media. It went over so well, the 40 or so ladies in the group, wanted to do more together. From there, we set up two Facebook pages – one private and one public. Then I figured if we could all work together, why not have a website where we would take turns for blogging, have a place to advertise our books, and use the home page for a monthly contest. Of course, we set up a Twitter account, Pinterest, Triberr, and then the newsletter which goes out to a huge audience every Friday filled with freebies, sales, and new releases - not only from our ladies… it’s available for others to submit. Cost is $7. 

Dani Haviland @dani_haviland

Dani is a USA Today best-selling romance author. She writes the timetravel series, The Fairies Saga.

I've been a part of Mimi's Gang for nearly five years now. We're a group of thirty-three romance authors who have banded together to help each other promote our single and cooperative works. Mimi Barbour is our founder and fearless Canadian leader. In 2016, she suggested we start putting together box sets by themes, filling them with our backlist stories that weren't doing as well as we'd like. I jumped in as the publisher (and banker) to help coordinate the finances and contracts. Chill Out! Books has published nearly one hundred titles so far! We've put out so many that now we're pushing ourselves to write more. Tamara Ferguson and her company, Tammysdragonfly Publishing, has lifted some of the burden and taken on some of these sets. 

The group has a website they support: www.authorsbillboard.com. We share the responsibility of writing a blog once a month, sharing links to the site (and its monthly contests), and advertise weekly and or monthly on it to support the prizes to the contests. We also list the box sets we write for and promote. @gr8authors, @mimisgang1, and #mgtab are ways to find us on Twitter. Many of our books and box sets can be found by searching 'ABB Chill Out' in the Kindle search bar on Amazon. 

The following is a list of some of Mimi Gang’s booksets that have been showcase on the HBS Author Spotlight blog:

IRRESISTIBLE CHRISTMAS - Unforgettable Christmas Joy - Dear Santa: A Christmas Wish -

Sweet and Sassy Holiday

Romance Gems - https://romancegems.blogspot.com/

Next is a smaller group of hardworking Romance authors with teamwork as the goal.

Joan Reeves @JoanReeves

Joan is a NY Times & USA Today best-selling author of Contemporary Romance.

Writing is said to be a lonely business, but that was before the internet! In today's world, writing is lonely only if you choose to make it so. I'll focus on the one that I organized which takes most of my spare time, and that is Romance Gems which debuted February 1, 2019. We are now 2 years old and we are 22 great authors strong. We've morphed into friends who support each other, publish together, and market/promote together.

When I organized Romance Gems, I set it up with an Executive Team and invited my friends to join in. The marvelous Bonnie Edwards, Jan Scarbrough, and Nancy Fraser did so for which I'm eternally grateful. We invite authors to join our group based on their body of work, professionalism, and personality. We read some of the nominated author's work and discuss whether she will be a good fit in the group dynamic. We want not only good writers but also an author who is professional and plays well with others. No drama divas or authors who aren't willing to work for the success of the group and each other. That's basically our mission statement. Support each other, support the group blog, work together, and have fun doing all of that.

We have giveaways, Book Fairs on a special holiday, and we have Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts. Our Facebook page "Romance Gems...Where Authors and Readers Meet" (https://www.facebook.com/groups/332592250930075/) is the most active. Our authors sign up to front a discussion on a certain day. That way we have a fresh content for our readers…

The friendship and support our authors extend to each other is priceless. We've had members who have lost family members, and we're there to help them any way we can. Yes, we're all separate by many miles, but we're just an email away if someone needs a shoulder to cry on, someone to lift them up in prayer, or send a caring message. We're there if an author needs to vent about a bad review or ask for a favor.

Bonnie Edwards @BonnieEdwards

Bonnie writes Romance, Contemporary and Paranormal novels and novellas.

I belong to Romance Gems, a blog group that formed from a long ago email loop of Kensington Books authors. Some of us wanted to strengthen our connections and started a group blog of a previous name. I'm an original member but didn't form the group. Our driving force is Joan Reeves, but I'm a member of the team that works behind the scenes. We blog on our specified days and have a readers' group on FB where members there are updated regularly on our news. 

Our main objective is exposure, support, and marketing. We have monthly themes and sometimes we offer free books or chances to win. 

We've done some box sets and have some others in the works. These are fun because now that we've created our setting, we'll revisit and write more stories in the same towns. There's nothing like having a whole team of us supporting and marketing at the same time.

Nancy Fraser @nfraserauthor

Nancy is a Top 100 Bestselling Author. She writes Romance novels and short stories.

The Romance Gems is a collective of authors, most who began their careers in the mid 1990s with the Precious Gems line from Kensington Publishing. Although we all went our separate ways, twenty-two of us have banded back together to form/support the group. The current group, in its latest incarnation, is overseen by author Joan Reeves. We are going through some reorganization pains at the moment in an effort to streamline our blog and get more bang for our promotion buck.

The main objective of Romance Gems is group promotion of all the members' books. We have a group Twitter account, Instagram, and Facebook readers group in addition to the blog itself. We are quite active in supporting each other on Goodreads and Bookbub as well. We've just recently put together a newsletter sharing program, as well as a new listing of our authors' private blogs and days they take submissions.

The Romance Gems have done a couple of projects together, with more to come in the future. A couple of years ago, we did a sampler collection of first chapters, although that book is no longer available. In 2020, we put together a box set titled Last Chance Beach: Summer's End with fourteen of the Gems participating. Then, later in the year, ten of us produced a holiday anthology, Christmas Comes to Dickens, which is now available in both ebook and print. Both collections will be expanding in the coming year. But, rather than a box set or anthology, each individual author will publish their own book in the series. The books will be linked to the series with cover graphics and wording and considered our little "world".

The following is a list of some of Romance Gems’ booksets that have been showcased on the HBS Author Spotlight blog:

Last Chance Beach: Summer's End - Christmas Comes to Dickens

Tucson Festival of Books

An event I go to every spring is the Book Festival at the University of Arizona. This is the ultimate group hug. Many groups have their own booth with the authors displaying their books, giving their sales pitch, and giving swag to the thousands of readers that attend the weekend event.

One of the first booths I attended was Murder, She Wrote. This group was sponsored by Rebecca Dahlke. What a great group of authors.

Terry Ambrose @suspense_writer  

Terry is the author of the McKenna Mystery series and the Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery series.

I belong to an author group called Booklovers Bench. When I discovered the group was now all cozy mystery authors, I was eager to return. There’s a good division of labor in Booklovers Bench, so no one person get saddled with the entire load.

Our main focus is marketing—we take turns with a weekly post and then host a monthly contest. But it also goes beyond that. We’ll read each others’ works to provide reviews, help with marketing quotes, and serve as a sounding board for ideas. We’re on the web at https://bookloversbench.com

Camelia Miron Skiba @CamiSkiba

Camelia writes Romance, Women's Fiction, Historical Fiction novels. She is the author of the Dacian Legends series.

I had a blast at the Festival! It challenges me to come out of my shell, which is a work in progress for the shy person that I am. I’ve met friends I knew from the previous year, and made new ones. I brought enough books (or so I thought) but by the second day I was sold out of two of my books (the Dacian series, BORN IN VENGEANCE and BORN IN SIN), so next year I’ll just bring more books.

Amigos and Ladies of the West

Doug Hocking @HockingDoug

Doug is the author of Western Mysteries and Historical Fiction.

Many of the members of the Western Writers of America wanted to participate in the Tucson Festival of Books which used to draw over 130,000 people by selling their books. This was impossible for the WWA staff to accomplish. Being licensed as a vendor in Arizona and looking at the very high expense of obtaining a booth for the Festival, over $800, I put together a group of 8 authors who know each other well and who enjoy working together. We share the expense making it manageable for all of us. The group has come to be known as Amigos and Ladies of the West https://doughocking.com/shop. One of the original members, Miles Swarthout, who wrote the script for John Wayne’s last movie, the Shootist, proposed the name and so it shall remain.

 

Here are a couple links to some of the Spotlight post on the Festival.

Book Marketing, Desert Style: Tucson Festival of Books 2013   

2017 Tucson Festival of Books – Amigos and Ladies of the West 

Indie Writers Unite

Another group started by a Spotlight interviewed Author was IWU.

Cheryl Bradshaw @cherylbradshaw

Cheryl is the New York Times & ten time USA Today bestselling mystery, thriller, and suspense author.

Indie Writers Unite, a group I founded about ten years ago. It was the first author group on Facebook.

Most of the groups I'm involved in are geared around marketing, tips on staying relevant, growing your brand, and learning what's working and what isn't in the industry today. In my group, Indie Writers Unite, we focus on helping new indie writers learn about the industry and offer tips on how to be successful in the business.   

 

… usually get involved in one bookset a year, depending on my availability. I've been involved in sets that have done well, and others that didn't do well. For me to get on board with other authors for a bookset, I am looking to work with authors who have an established group of followers and are willing to promote the set and give it a lot of visibility. I also take part in multi-author book promos each month. It's a great way to gain more exposure with readers who have never read my books before. Cheryl’s Spotlight Interview

Booksets and Bundles

Booksets are one of the projects most groups are doing. Multi-authors from the group submit their novel or short story and the books are combined to form a set of books. Most bookset’s prices are set at minimum with exposure being the main goal.

Tamara Ferguson @Tammysdragonfly

Tamara is an award-winning author who writes Romance and Suspense novels

From an interview
The romance bundle for A Touch of Passion is comprised with full-length novels. When my dear friend Uvi Poznansky invited me into the group, I immediately said yes. She is the most amazing organizer I’ve ever met when it comes to putting together an anthology, and setting up promotions and Facebook events, and she’s very talented graphic designer as well. It takes a lot of patience to work in a group; particularly when some members don’t have the ability to contribute as much time as others, because of previous commitments. 

The goal, of course, is to boost the sales of books for each author in the group. And, if in the process, we take it to the next level and become Amazon bestsellers (which we did), it would assuredly boost our sales even more. 

What many authors don’t realize is the category rankings for anthology sales will also be associated individually with your numbers. 

A bestselling anthology can definitely boost your career as an author, and you should always think carefully before turning an offer down.

Marcia James @Marcia_James

Author Marcia James writes comic romantic mystery and suspense novels, as well as humorous contemporary romance. 

From an interview
love participating in romance ebook anthologies (or boxed sets, as many people call them). Not only do I get to work with a great group of authors, but we each get one of our stories in front of the other authors' readers. This can and does lead to an increase in sales of our other books and novellas. So these boxed sets are a way of co-promoting with other authors. That saves time and money, since we're splitting the jobs (running a Facebook page, contacting advertisers, coordinating the cover and formatting, etc.) and the cost (paying for advertising, the cover, the formatting, etc.) And the boxed sets are a great deal for readers, too, since most of them include at least ten stories for 99 cents.

It's very important to network with other authors. Most of these boxed set opportunities come about when a group of author friends decides to join together to do a boxed set. The group comes up with a theme, like the sports-theme of this summer's Score One For Love. Each author in the group has to write a story (or have one already written) that fits the theme. All authors retain their copyrights and can also indie-publish their stories separately, as well as part of the set. One author has to be considered the "publisher" by the online bookstores (Amazon, B&N, Apple, Kobo, etc.), or the group can hire a company like IndieWrites to handle the publishing, royalties, and tax information in exchange for a small percentage of the royalties. I think all boxed sets are a win-win for both the authors and readers.

S.R. Mallery @SarahMallery1

Sarah is the award-winning author who writes Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction, and Mysteries. 

From an interview
Firstly, I cannot claim responsibility for putting together that set. I was graciously invited in by Uvi Poznansky, who knew my work, and wanted to include me if at all possible. This was my first bundle experience, and I couldn’t be happier. All of the authors are far, far better known in the literary world than I, as well as being savvier regarding social media. The result of that has brought me the benefit of a wider audience. 
Featured on HBS Author’s Spotlight)

Jacquie Biggar @JacqBiggar

Jacquie is a Romance, Contemporary and Suspense writer who writes the 'Wounded Hearts' series. 

From an interview
Author bundles: Dangerous Encounters has been a positive experience all around. I’ve made new friends, new fans, and best of all, the cross-promotion has helped my other books get recognized. I met the others in the set through a Facebook group.

Kindle Unlimited (Select)

A new strategy in group think is the power of Kindle Unlimited to gain exposure. Most booksets have this as an option for readers to gain access to their novels.  The number of ebook individual readers and number subscribing to Unlimited is going up dramatically.

Mimi Barbour @MimiBarbour

Mimi is a NYT & USA Today, best-selling, and award-winning author. She writes Romance, Paranormal, and Suspense novels.

All along, I’d been submitting my books to multi-author box collections, and when I was invited to join one where the books would be strictly for Select so we would earn pages-read as well as sales, it went over incredibly well. I decided the ladies at the Billboard needed to have the same experience, and so we started with the first box collection put together in the group called Unforgettable Romances. What a rush! It still sells well to this day. That began a landslide of collections in every genre. If you go to our website and check out the book’s page (https://authorsbillboard.com/book-bites) you’ll see a panorama of beautiful sets all costing only 99 cents, and all available in Kindle Unlimited for FREE.

Between us, I often make more on my page-read amount than I do on my sales. 

Dream Team

So, let’s setup a dream team. You know, one that would meet all our expectations. One that would help us sell more books and gain exposure.

Manager

Everything starts and stops with the manager. The captain of the group.

They must pick the right authors to join. They must schedule and coordinate the group activities.

The group should have three or four co-captains. Time sometimes can be a problem and managing different task is needed.

Group Members

·       Members usually have some connection like they write in the same genre, Romance, Mystery, Western or Fantasy. They may like to write about holidays or support cause or charities. A common link between them is best.

·         They must write good material.

·         They must be active and willing to spend the time.

·         They must be active on social media with their own site or blog. Maybe even a newsletter with a reader list.

·         They must be willing to help other group authors market their books

Goals and Objectives

·         Most successful group are friendship bound. One they develop over time.

·         Establish a presence in their genre.  

·         Set goals like selling more books, being on the USA Today Bestseller List, and new reader exposure.

·         Creating good group promotions. Find crossover readers between members. Getting your name into places it wouldn't have otherwise been.

  • Work with others blog posts, blog hops and contests with giveaways.

Action

·       Maintain the group blog/website with constant activity and promoting it on social media. Second step: connect the site to your own site. For example, I create a post for my new release and add it to the groups blog. Great. Now if I could have the other member promote the release on their social media accounts, I have explained my reach.

·        Create an email campaign with each other highlighting the groups work.

·        Create Author bundles like Book Sets, Anthologies and a Bookshelf of new releases. Remember, the books don’t have to be under one cover. The readers get an inexpensive collection of works and they often find at least a few stories among the many to like.

·        Attend conferences, book festivals like TFOB, trade shows, libraries, book stores and signings as a group.

The group hug “mades marketing easier because it wasn’t just one of us doing all of it.”

To review all the input for this study by author, Click Here.

Created by: James Moushon
Mystery Author, Industry blogger and Author Advocate
James is the author of the following blogs:
HBS Author’s Spotlight
Indie Author's Corner
Mystery Reader’s Circle

8 comments:

  1. James, what a clever man to share all these tips and successes through groups. Thank you for including me and the Romance Gems! Cheers!

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  2. I realized long ago that working together with other authors helps me in so many ways. I'm always learning new things. I have found authors to be very generous with their know-how and expertise. And it makes me feel good to "pay it forward" by teaching others what I know.

    Thank you, James, for this article. I am happy to be a contributor!

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  3. Thanks for including me in your study, James. I appreciate the shoutout for me and the crew at Booklovers Bench!

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  4. Much thanks for including me in your study, James! And much thanks for always being so generous with sharing our books!

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  5. James --I really appreciate being included in your post. You're a good friend to authors, and the information contained in your post is very helpful. Thanks! Have a safe and happy 2021!

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  6. Collaborating with other authors is the highlight of belonging to a group such as The Authors' Billboard led by Mimi Barbour.
    Thanks for putting together this comprehensive study of why author groups are important, James!

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  7. Im was thrilled after reading your words about group efforts, James. It's been such a thrill to work with the ladies at the Authors Billboard and succeed the way we've been able to. Having taken two collections to the USAT, 99% of our ladies are now tagged and we've all benefitted because of it. It's challeging... and also rewarding so I wish you all the best of luck in the world. If you ever need to brainstorm, let me know. Take care and stay safe.

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  8. James, I'm late to the party, but I wanted to thank you for this fabulous overview of writers' groups. Great analysis by all who contributed. I hope it inspires others to joine or set up a group of their own. Thank you from all of us at Romance Gems.

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