A few years ago I worked on a project with Days of Our Lives. For those of you who grew up with soap operas (or maybe still try to catch them from time to time) you know that this show has been on the air for 47-odd years. A couple of years ago they released a book, a coffee table book celebrating 45 years of the show. It was a big, pricey, coffee table book, and most bookstores couldn’t keep it in stock. In fact, the publisher went back for many, many printings of it. A funny backstory of this is that initially Barnes & Noble didn’t order enough books, figuring no one would buy them. Clearly, someone should have done some market research. Amazon stocked up, and stocked up heavily, and once Barnes & Noble sold out, guess where soap fans went?
So, I was at the
Daytime Emmy Awards in Vegas during this book release time and, prior to the
start of the awards show, I was outside the auditorium as many of the fans
started arriving. Hundreds of them had been there for hours. I was walking
around with the Days book when a woman walked up to me. She asked, “Are you with
the show?” Before I had a chance to say no, she launched into a particular issue
she was having with Days. She said that several of the sets were reusing the
throw pillows and it was distracting to her to see them used over and over again
in different houses. Now, you might think this was creepy, that someone noticed
something like that, but I see something very different here. I see a Super Fan.
You want someone to notice the throw pillows because that means that they not
only care about what you’re offering, but they care enough to tell you how to
make it better, and, they care enough to support whatever it is that you’re
When you think about creating Super Fans, I think that we can all
take a lesson from the Soap Opera market. These actors spend an inordinate
amount of time visiting with fans, having lunches with them, sending them
correspondence, responding to them on social media (and most, if not all of
them, manage their own social media accounts).
With all of the options we
have for television these days, soaps should have died out years ago, but they
haven’t. Why? The Super Fan.
How can you build a Super Fan? Well, it
starts with free (which we discussed in the last issue) and it continues with
Creating the Super Fan
In one test
case, we asked one of our authors to put up a blog post about who she’d cast if
her book became a movie. Her fans loved it and she got a ton of
The fact is that 83% percent of Americans want to write a
book, and 100% of those authors have dreamed of their book becoming a movie or a
TV series. This post resonated with readers visually and also keyed in to their
core interest of becoming an author and living the dream.
Then, we took this
a step further. We added character profiles to the site: Pictures of the
characters along with snippets about them: http://www.thepublicistnovel.com/about-the-book
also encouraged this author to pull together a playlist for her book and to ask
fans for the songs they think fit with the characters.
Then, we also had
trading cards made for the book. You can get these done at GotPrint, and I had
them designed on 99Designs for $150.
Easy. I also had them done for my
How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon. I have
taken both of these sets of cards to events and authors *love* them. In fact, I
just took 200 cards of each to ASJA, and I figured I’d wind up taking a bunch
home with me but they were gobbled up.
The next step was to take these
trading cards (for the fiction book) and send them to every blogger or reader
who had reviewed the book. The result? Raves on Twitter, along with a post from
a blogger who had taken a picture of the cards.
I also did this with the
Amazon cards (sending them to reviewers) and they *loved* this!
remember that letter to readers we put in the back of the book? Well, readers
responded (some just wrote reviews and did not email, but others did both). To
those fans who emailed the author, we offered to let them read book three (the
final book in the series) in galley form to get their feedback on the book.
Feedback from readers who love you? You bet. Guess what? They loved it. Some
posted it to their Facebook page and told all their friends, others tweeted on
it. This small gesture made readers feel important, and we all want to feel like
we matter, don’t we?
Why does all of this work? Clearly there’s some fun
engagement going on but it’s more than that: We’re really taking the time to
spend time with our readers, even if it’s just virtually.
It takes very
little to respond to an email. I mean I get emails from authors wanting advice
all the time. I try to respond to many, if not all. It takes a few minutes, but
the process of connecting with a reader in a really honest way can benefit you
Understanding the Metric of Free
issue we talked about the power of free and how you can use free to drive your
success. We had a book we were promoting as a 2-day freebie. In those two days
the book generated 61,000 downloads. Out of that, the author got a couple of
hundred emails from readers (and this happened almost immediately) who had read
and loved the book and were encouraged to write to her (thanks to the letter in
the back of the book!).
This author decided to take this process a step
further and she wrote back to all the readers, telling them that they’d been
included in her Exclusive Reader Club which means that they would get access to
her next book, for free, just for writing (and posting a review, although she
did not ask them for a good one, just that they post a review). This model helps
to build a community with readers. She also invited the readers who wrote to
invite up to ten of their friends to join this “club” and again, the “cost” of
entry was a review. She didn’t even tell them to buy the book, if the reader
felt that $1.99 was an unfair price, she’d send it to them for free.
this might seem counterintuitive to you, but what she’s doing is building solid
rapport with her readers, building trust, and also being fair. She wants a
review but if you don’t want to buy the book, you don’t have to. To date, no one
has asked for a freebie. Why? Because they came into this “funnel” through a
friend. A friend tells them about the book and “you should sign up for book
three for free,” and since we trust our friends, we know that they probably know
what we like. We’ll see where this winds up when her next book comes out, but
for now, this is turning out to be a great way to build an eager tribe of Super
Own the Shelf
In a world where anyone can
publish and many do, you really need to own the shelf – your shelf, your genre.
How can you do that? By publishing a lot. Now, keep in mind that short is the
new long so these don’t have to be long books.
In fact a few weeks ago I
talked to a publisher who told me that a word count between 20,000 and 50,000
was their sweet spot. They said that they sell a ton of books at that word
count. This does not mean that they don’t publish full-length books because they
do. But sometimes you just want a quick read, right? So does your reader. Owning
the shelf is not just key to exposure but also, if you’re trying to build your
Super Fan empire, they’re going to want more of your books – and this is a great
way to give your readers what they want.
I just finished a fantastic book by Nicholas Lovell
called The Curve. If you haven’t read it I highly encourage you to do so. This
author talks about the Super Fan and goes on to say that technically, you only
need 1,000 Super Fans to get a bestseller. I mean, think about it. A Super Fan
will tell ten of their friends, maybe 100 or more. You’re more inclined to buy
something when someone you trust recommends it, right? Hence the Super
When I say “sell the experience” what I mean is that you use free to
lower the barrier to entry, to build that Super Fan-dom and now what? Now it’s
time to roll out things like Special Editions, Fan events (I had an author who
planned a fan tea event at a local tea shop and it was a huge hit). Sure, you
can do a book signing and those are great, but sell the experience. You want
each of your fans to feel special, right? Make them feel special. People will
pay for an experience.
Consider Starbucks. Twenty years ago if someone
had told me I’d be dishing out $5 for a latte I’d tell them they were crazy (and
I’m not even sure I knew what a latte was back then). Starbucks charges between
$3 and $5 for a specialty beverage, you’d think that at some point their success
would drop off, but it does not seem to be declining. Starbucks sells an
experience and so should you.
To create a wildly successful book, you
need Super Fans. And whether you liked it or hated it, the insane success of the
book Fifty Shades of Grey was largely due to the Super
Fans who loved this book so much that they shared it with their friends and
enthusiastically recommended it to their friends on social media.
Fans are golden, whether they are recommending a book or telling you about the
throw pillows – you should cherish each and every one of them. Oh, and I did get
the message to Days, and the throw pillows were changed. I bet that fan was
Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com