The concept of author tribes has been the most freeing idea for me as a writer trying to build a platform and figure out marketing.
Understanding Tribes will help you overcome many of your fears with marketing and “self-promotion” and give you the freedom to impact the world with your writing in the ways you always hoped it would.
Large swaths of this article are taken from and inspired by Seth Godin’s amazing 2008 book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.
Let’s jump in.
What is a Tribe?
A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.
Think about how ubiquitous this is. You are probably a member of dozens of tribes.
Do you love romance novels? This is a tribe. You are connected to other people who enjoy romance novels through online forums, book groups, and even Amazon reviews. You look to leaders — reviewers, authors, etc — that point out new books and new ways to enjoy them. And, of course, there is the idea of what a romance novel is to you, which is the whole point.
I’m a member of a CrossFit® gym. I am connected to the other members of my gym and, at times, other CrossFit members around the world. I look to leaders — my CrossFit coaches — as leadership on what it means to be in the CrossFit tribe. And then, of course, there is the idea of CrossFit that we are constantly looking too.
Who you have coffee with, where you have coffee, what kind of car you drive, where you live, what you watch, what you read, where you go on vacation, what you do for health, how you eat, what you eat… all of it is shaped and influenced by your memberships in tribes.
What is the most important part of author tribes?
Three things are needed to make a Tribe:
- People connected to other people
- People connected to a leader
- People connected to an idea
Of course, a Tribe can’t exist without people. And we all look to leaders of some sort to show us the way, but the author tribes would completely unravel without the idea.
It’s the idea
The idea always exists outside of ourselves, our leaders, and our author tribes.
Al Gore didn’t create the idea of climate change. That simply exists. He merely leads the way.
Your favorite Instagram book reviewer didn’t create the idea of what a great novel is. That simply exists. She simply helps lead the way.
What we see in all author tribes is that the leader is not the point of focus of the tribe, it’s the idea.
When done right, the leader merely sees himself as a servant of the idea and his tribe members. She is simply the conduit the tribe members use to get a clearer picture of what the idea is and how they can reach it.
Many authors are worried about this idea of self-promotion. You don’t want to be one of those authors that are constantly hawking their books and driving people crazy.
However, my assertion is simply this:
If an author has slipped into self-promotion, it is only because he has forgotten his role as a tribe leader. He has forgotten that his most important job is in service to the idea and the author tribe, not themselves.
Why did you create in the first place?
Of course, there are times when it is time to promote something. Whether it is your latest novel or an event you are putting on or a friend’s new book, there comes a time to ask your author tribe to get behind something new by buying and sharing.
When is this in service to your idea or your tribe members?
This is where I ask you to take some time to think about why you wrote your new book. Was it simply to make money? Was it simply to fulfill your own ego? Was it simply to prove all the negative bastards in your life wrong?
Sure, there may be a bit of one or all of those motivations.
However, in my 10+ years of experience working with authors, I have yet to meet one that is purely selfish. There are much better and more efficient ways to make money and become famous than writing a book.
You write because you love.
Whether it’s a business book or a space opera romance or a memoir, your core desire behind your creation is to make this world a better place in some way. You wrote the book to be helpful. You wrote the book because you want to add something to people’s lives.
So when it comes time to ask people to buy something you’ve created, it is an act of service to invite them to buy and share.
The more people that read your book, the better off we will all be, which means it is your duty as a tribe leader to do the marketing and promotion for your work.
It is in service to the idea.
All of this begs the obvious next question…
How do you build an author tribe?
The path to building author tribes is broken down into six basic steps. They create the funnel you need to connect with new readers and build your author platform.
Let’s start here.
- Find where people are already showing up and join them.
Your potential fans are already congregating together in different places. Show up in person (or better yet, get an opportunity to speak) at conventions and conferences. Connect with other influencers and get involved in groups and forums online. Focus on being helpful. Do interviews with other experts in your space. Find where people already are and then get involved.
- Start a blog and write regularly.
This is your home base and everyone who finds you online will inevitably land here. Use it to expound on your ideas and teach what you are learning. Get your website up and start adding content.
- Setup your email marketing.
Gain access to directly email your fans. This is your most important asset! This is where the people that truly care about what you are doing are going to be. You must move people from being more than just blog readers to email subscribers. If you haven’t yet, get your email list set up.
- Train your community to get involved.
This is key and the thing people often overlook. Start small with things like Q&A’s but ratchet it up over time. From early on, teach your fans that you expect them to roll up their sleeves and work with you.
- Cultivate your top 1%.
You’ll start to see a few people’s names show up over and over as you ask your community to get involved. Invite them in to interact with you and start giving them tools to get even more involved. These will be the people who will have the biggest impact on growing your fan base.
- Connect your fans to each other.
The goal is not to grow a large list of disconnected followers. The goal is to build a community. This means they need to interact with each other. Give them opportunities to do this via digital and physical means. Forums, communities, workshops, and book signings are all examples of this.
How do you put this stuff into practice?
What I’ve found is there are 3 basic steps to building author tribes based community and I’ve put together a free training where I walk you through the 3 steps and how to put them into practice.
September 11, 2018