A patron of the Novel Marketing Show recently asked a great question we’re going to answer in this article.
“How can I collaborate with other authors so we can help promote each other’s work?”
But first, why is this something you should consider?
Why work with other authors?
Reason #1 Writing is the Opposite of a Zero-Sum Game
Gambling is a zero-sum game. If I win chips, it means you lose chips.
In the real world, most things involving money are not zero-sum. In almost every area, value can be created. For example, if I build a mansion next to your house, it makes your house more valuable. The total pie is bigger.
Writing is the same.
“When people love a book, they want to read more books like it, even if those books are by other authors.” Click to Tweet
When you help fellow authors succeed, you help yourself succeed as well. As the old saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Remember: Faster alone, further together.
Your competition as an author is not other authors. Your competition is Netflix.
Reason #2 Writing is Hard
Non-writers don’t understand that you suffer when you kill off one of your characters, or even worse when you have to edit them out of your novel altogether.
“Authors who “go alone” almost always give up before they reach the finish line.” Click to Tweet
Reason #3 Publishing is Hard
Finding an agent, a publisher, and a good book deal is hard. Indie publishing is the same amount of work. It’s simply a different path. There is so much to learn and many potential mistakes to make.
If you are going alone, you won’t have the advantage of learning from someone else’s mistakes. You’ll have to learn by making the mistakes yourself.
Reason #4 Marketing is Hard
Promoting your book requires hard, ongoing work. Not only must you accomplish various marketing tasks, but you must also learn what works and what doesn’t for you and your book.
Collaborating with other authors makes the writing, publishing, and marketing processes. Each stage becomes easier when authors collaborate. I have been working with bestselling authors for over a decade, and I can’t think of a single writer who made it to bestseller status without a community of other authors helping out.
Now that you know you need to work with other authors let’s talk about how to work with other authors.
There are three levels of author collaboration.
Level 1: How to Connect with Other Authors
At this first level of collaboration, the goal is to connect with other authors to learn from each other’s experiences and to encourage one another to go further. We recently released episode 217 about mentorship, and we explored several types of level-one collaboration.
Level-one collaboration can take several forms:
Facebook groups, Slack groups, online forums, and other online writers groups fit into this category. Online communities have the lowest barrier to entry, the least time commitment, and are the least valuable form of collaboration in this list. Little is sown, and little is reaped.
- Be picky. It is better to focus on fewer communities where you genuinely contribute than to dabble in many groups you never check.
- Ask questions! Don’t just lurk.
- Answer questions. Online communities are about give-and-take. Comment unto others as you would have them comment unto you.
“In Facebook groups, comment unto others as you would have them comment unto you.” Click to Tweet
Conferences are a great place to meet other authors in real life. Many of the following collaboration techniques assume you already know the authors in real life. Writers conferences are where you make those connections.
- Listen to Episode 063 – Six Proven Methods for Creating Maximum Impact at Writing Conferences.
- Start with small, local conferences before attending big, national conferences.
- Focus on getting to know other authors in attendance. Don’t be overly dazzled by the agents and editors.
In the five-year plan, we talk a lot about the importance of joining a critique group, or better yet, starting your own. Episode 135 talks all about how to start your own group. I also have a course on how to start your writer’s group.
- The best way to find the perfect critique group is to start your own.
- Look on Meetup.com for other writers’ groups in your area.
- Ask your local librarian. They sometimes know about critique groups you can’t find anywhere else.
Mastermind groups are a lot like critique groups, but they focus more on the publishing journey and less on the craft of writing. Participants find motivation, accountability, marketing tips, publishing advice, and more. In episode 101, we talk about how to start your own mastermind group.
I also host a couple of mastermind groups for Novel Marketing patrons. One of the groups is already full, but the other currently has a few openings.
- Dig your well before you’re thirsty. It takes time to get to know the masterminds in your group and build trust with them. Join a mastermind group before you need one.
- Commit to being as encouraging and helpful as possible.
- Show up! It doesn’t do you any good if you don’t attend the meetings.
Buddy System Calls
I know a lot of professional authors who have a weekly buddy system call with another author. These function like mini masterminds.
One Tip: Pick a good buddy. Find a buddy who will encourage and challenge you.
Level 2: How to Cross-Promote with Other Authors
In cross-promotion, authors promote each other’s work. The more authors you cross-promote with, the more readers you will reach.
The key to success is to apply the Golden (Author) Rule: “Promote for other authors as you would have them promote for you.” Click to Tweet
The more you bless other authors, the more they will want to bless you when the time comes.
You will find authors at nearly every level of success using one or more of the following cross-promotion strategies.
Email Newsletter Swaps
When you swap newsletters with another author, you email your list of readers to promote another author’s book. In return, they email their list promoting your book.
- Stick to authors who write books like yours. Audience match is also important.
- Read the book before recommending it! This will make you a better writer.
- Your reputation is on the line. Only promote books you would personally recommend. It only takes one bad recommendation to ruin your reputation.
Blog Book Reviews
A lot of novelists ask what they should blog about. The one thing you should never blog about is writing tips. It attracts the wrong crowd.
Instead, review books by similar authors. If you write Amish fiction and your blog is the source for Amish fiction reviews, you will build an audience of Amish fiction readers, and you’ll cultivate goodwill with other Amish fiction authors. (Assuming you are fair in your reviews.)
Pick a very narrow genre to start. Don’t review a broad genre like “fantasy books.” Review a microgenre like “female protagonist dragon-riding books.” Once your blog gets traction in that microgenre, you can expand.
- Include an affiliate link to buy the book, even if you give a negative review.
- Always show the cover on the blog post or in your review.
- Be as specific as possible about what you like and don’t like about the book.
Goodreads Cross Promotion
While Amazon does not allow authors to review each other’s books, Goodreads encourages it. Goodreads does not allow an author to add their own book to a list, but authors can add someone else’s book to various lists.
Just like you swap email newsletter promotions, you can also swap Goodreads promotions.
In short, a launch bundle is a collection of bonuses that readers receive if they purchase the book in the first few weeks of launch. A great way to collaborate with other authors is to contribute to each other’s launch bundles.
For example, you can offer your e-book as part of a fellow author’s launch bundle, and she can provide hers as part of your launch bundle. This is one reason it’s helpful to have lots of short stories on hand.
Writing blurbs for book covers is the classic way of cross-promoting in traditional publishing. But remember, blurbs only work if readers already know the person who has written the blurb or their title like “bestselling author” or “senator.”
Cohosting Webinars & Facebook Lives
This is a classic for nonfiction authors. Cohosting a webinar or Facebook Live is a great way to introduce your different audiences to each other. We talk more about this in Episode 153 – How to Host a Facebook Live For Your Book.
If you have a podcast, you can invite authors to be a guest on your podcast and vice versa.
For more on podcast guesting listen to:
- 209 How to Get Booked for Guest Podcast Interviews Overview
- Also, check out my course on doing podcast interviews.
Level 3: How to Collaborate with Other Authors
If level-one is the singles mixer, and level two is dating, then level three is marriage. This is the ultimate form of collaboration.
If you write a foreword for someone, they can add you as an “author” of their book on Amazon. If a reader views your Amazon author page, it will show the books you’ve written as well as the books for which you’ve written forewords.
Writing foreword is a time-tested tactic. If you don’t have a foreword in your book, you are leaving book sales on the table. Click to Tweet
Writing a foreword is a big commitment for the author who writes it. Having a great foreword is a result of having a great relationship with the writer. You’ll find these relationships can be cultivated in person as well as online.
The forward for my book Courtship in Crisis (affiliate link) was written by Debra Fileta, the author of the popular book True Love Dates (affiliate link). She read my viral blog post and reached out to me. We corresponded by email about our topic, and I eventually invited her to be a guest on my radio show.
Because I got to know her through correspondence and conversation, I felt comfortable asking her to write the foreword for my book. She agreed. But if you click on her name in Amazon, you will see three books: the two she authored and the one for which she wrote a foreword. Everyone who looks at my book sees her name listed in the author line as the forward author.
Short Story Anthology
I’ve noticed that urban fantasy authors make good use of this technique. A group of authors will publish a short story anthology. I buy a lot of these because Jim Butcher puts Dresden Files (affiliate link) short stories in these anthologies. Anthologies introduce me to new writers.
This type of collaboration requires more work. But it can be worth it. A group of authors working together can provide more value than just two authors working alone.
Co-Authoring a Book Together
Co-Authoring is a major commitment. Don’t go into an agreement lightly. That said, this is perhaps the most powerful technique because it allows both authors to fully leverage their readerships.
Sharing a Literary Universe
Sharing a literary universe has many of the same benefits as co-authoring a book together. But it doesn’t require authors to work together as closely as co-authoring does. However, this could be a more long-term commitment as multiple books develop from your shared universe.
When authors share a literary universe, characters from one story can appear in the other author’s story and vice versa. To learn more about sharing a literary universe, listen to episode 216–Literary Universe Marketing.
Creating a Pen Name Together
Sharing a pen name is the ultimate commitment. Instead of co-authoring a book with another author, you can create a pen name with them.
Creating a shared pen name works when two authors, who write in different genres, work together. A romance writer may team up with a suspense writer to create a masterful romantic suspense novel under their collective pen name.
How else can authors work together? Let us know in the Novel Marketing Facebook group.
Most authors want to join someone else’s writers group. When everyone thinks someone else will do something, it doesn’t happen. The result? Most authors are not in writers groups, even though writers group membership is one of the things that separates bestselling authors from authors struggling to make it.
Don’t let that be you!
In this course, you will learn how to start your very own writers group.
Thomas has started nearly half a dozen writer’s groups over the last ten years, and he has learned a thing or two in the process.
Patrons save 50%, and students of the 5 Year Plan get this course for free! And that’s a good price!
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It is fun to watch Mercy, our toddler, with our new baby, Tommy. Mercy is so excited about this new little person in the house.
She only knows a handful of words, but we’ve been teaching her baby sign language, and she uses the sign “sleepy” to refer to the baby. One time she used the signs “sleepy” and then the sign for “bird” to refer to him. “Sleeping Bird” has become his new nickname.
Mercy wants so much to be able to play with Tommy, but they are both too small. The best she can do is kiss him. Pretty much everything else is too rough.
We have to watch Mercy like a hawk while Tommy is having “tummy time” because Mercy will step on him or try to hug him too hard. As they grow, they will be able to interact better.
When it comes to interacting with readers, a lot of beginning authors are like my daughter. They want to interact with their readers, but the know what to say or how to get readers to want to join their email list.
If that is you, don’t give up! Keep listening to this podcast and keep getting better at your craft. Keep growing. You won’t stay at the “toddler level” forever.
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