Every author platform has to fulfill the Connection System by solving three problems: permission, content, and outreach. By far, the hardest of the three problems is influencer outreach.
There’s a few reasons for this:
- It’s the one piece that doesn’t rely 100% on the author. It requires other people — influencers — to be involved.
- It’s emotional. Inherent in outreach is the risk and probability that you will be rejected.
- It’s hard to organize. Trying to get influencers to help promote your book is like herding cats.
- It’s ambiguous. It’s hard to know where to start and if you’re doing it right.
In this article I’m going to walk you through the basics of influencer outreach and give you a simple framework to help you get started.
What are influencers?
Let’s start in this most basic of places. I want to define a couple terms so we are all on the same page.
- FANS are people who will buy your book. They are on your email list, connected to you on social media, or are your friends, family, and coworkers. They are the people that will go to the bookstore and buy a copy of your book.
- INFLUENCERS are people who will get other people to buy your book. These are the bloggers, authors, TV producers, magazine editors, and book club moderators. They are anyone who has a following of their own that, if they promote your book, will get people to buy it.
Anyone who can get a large (25+) group of people to buy a copy of your book is an influencer.
See the World in Tribes
In 2008, Seth Godin published his book Tribes and changed my life. It’s one of my all-time favorite books on marketing and you should definitely read it. It is foundational to everything I teach about book marketing and influencer outreach.
I now think of the world in terms of “tribes.” Seth’s definition of a tribe is:
“A group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea.
There are three pieces to a tribe:
- The Big Idea. This is something that exists outside of the tribe. This is the thing that drives the existence of the tribe. This is the thing the tribe leader and members are connecting around.
- Tribe Members. The people that are connecting to each other and to the leader around the Big Idea.
- Tribe leader. The person(s) that the tribe members are following to the Big Idea.
You see tribes everywhere. You are a member of many tribes yourself. Here’s a few of my tribes.
CrossFit is a type of workout program that “is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.” There are over 10,000 CrossFit affiliate gyms worldwide. I am a member of one of them. CrossFit’s beliefs and teachings on fitness and nutrition is the Big Idea. Evan Beach who owns the CrossFit gym I am a member of is my Tribe Leader. The other members of my gym are the other Tribe Members I am connected to around the Big Idea.
- Big Idea – CrossFit’s philosophy on fitness and nutrition.
- Tribe Leader – Evan Beach, owner of CrossFit Forte.
- Tribe Members – Me and the other members of CrossFit Forte.
Derek Sivers is the author of Anything You Want and is the founder of the company CD Baby. Several years ago I discovered Derek and started watching his TED talks, listening to his podcast interviews, and reading his writings. I love the way he thinks and teaches about simplicity, starting small, and living the life you want. Now, I am subscribed to his newsletter and consume just about anything he produces.
- Big Idea – Ideas about simplicity, starting small, and living the life you want.
- Tribe Leader – Derek Sivers.
- Tribe Members – Me and all of the other people that follow his work and subscribe to his newsletter.
WELD is the co-working space in Nashville, TN where I work. WELD’s motto is “We Create Better Together.” WELD was founded by Jordan Bellamy who has set the culture and tone of community and working together. I’ve dropped into and visited other co-working spaces and am always disappointed by the lack of creativity and community that embodies them.
- Big Idea – “We Work Better Together” embodies the ideas of community and creativity.
- Tribe Leader – Jordan Bellamy.
- Tribe Members – Me and the other members of WELD.
Tribes are everywhere. Sometimes the Big Idea is broad, and sometimes it’s specific. Sometimes the Tribe Leader is a single person or several people. Sometimes the Tribe Members gather physically and sometimes they gather digitally, or both.
What you watch, where you go, where you get your information, who you spend time with on the weekends is all connected to Tribes. Once you start seeing the worlds in terms of tribes, you will see them everywhere.
5 Steps to Influencer Outreach
Shifting your view of the world into Tribes is an important step in influencer outreach, but what next? How do you actually start putting that knowledge into practice?
When I look at influencer outreach — whether it’s speaking at conferences, guest blogging, writing for a popular newsletter, or any other way of moving people from not knowing I exist to knowing I exist — there are always five steps to the process.
1. Develop Personas
The basic question is, “what type of person is likely to read my book?”
Think about who is likely to read your book, then start answering lots of different questions:
- What gender?
- What ages?
- Where do they live?
- How much education do they have?
- What does their household look like?
- What do they do for a living?
- Where do they get their information?
- What forums do they participate in?
- Who do they follow on social media?
- What blogs and websites do they read?
- What podcasts do they listen to?
- What genres do they read?
- Where do they buy their books?
- Where do they get recommendations for books to read?
- What reviewers do they trust?
- Do they read ebooks, print, or audiobooks?
- What other books do they read?
After answering these questions you may develop several different personas. That’s good. That gives you more targets.
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, I would start by interviewing people. Simply send a bunch of these questions to your friends or current fans.
You want to have a good picture of the type of people you are trying to talk to. This will save you from doing influencer outreach that doesn’t actually lead to sales.
2. Identify Where Your Personas Are Congregating
Now you take all of that research from step 1 and start getting very specific. Usually I start a spreadsheet and start making a list of every website, podcast, conference, workshop, magazine, radio show, television show, YouTube channel, magazine, forum, review site, etc that comes up in my research.
These are the places that the people that are likely to be interested in reading your book are currently congregating. These are the tribes.
This is the list of targets for your influencer outreach. These are the places I want to show up to move people from not knowing I exist to knowing I exist.
3. Identify the Tribe Leader
Now, go through your list of influencer outreach opportunities and start identifying who is the gate keeper and tribe leader for each tribe. Who would make the decision to give you access to the tribe?
A lot of times it’s obvious. It’s the blogger or the podcaster or the producer. However, for other outlets, you’ll have to do some digging. Who is making the decisions on the panelists for the various workshops at a conference? What reviewers have a large following in your genre on GoodReads? Sometimes you might just email the generic contact form on a website and ask.
Whatever it takes, you have to figure out for each tribe you want to be introduced to, who the leader of that particular tribe is.
4. Research the Tribe
This is the crucial step that the vast majority of people ignore. Yet this is the step that will set you apart from everyone else and get you more yes’s than no’s.
You must do your research. You can’t send the same copy-and-pasted pitch to every podcast or blog or review site and hope that you will get accepted. Your job is to go through and consume their content from the last 3-6 months. Read the blog posts, listen to the podcast episodes, read their book reviews, read their column, look at past speakers and panelists, etc.
All the while, looking for places where you, your book, and your content overlap with what they do. Look for opportunities where you could speak or offer your book to be reviewed or pitch yourself to be interviewed. I think of it as a Venn diagram.
This allows you to customize your pitch and stand apart from everyone else who is sending the same generic email to fifty different people.
Do your research by consuming their content and looking for places where you can fit into what they are already doing.
5. Send a Pitch to the Tribe Leader
Now you take everything you’ve done over the past four steps to craft and send a pitch.
You know the audience you’re trying to talk to. You know where those people are congregating. You know who the tribe leader is that can give you access to their tribe. You’ve done your research to know what kind of content they produce and how you can fit into what they are already doing.
Now you send them an email pitching them on introducing you to their tribe.
These are the steps I go through for all of the influencer outreach that I do. It doesn’t matter what genre you are writing in or whether you are traditionally or indie published, outreach always works the same.
Follow the steps above to properly plan and execute your outreach and you will be surprised at the results!
April 10, 2018