Super Fans and Street Teams: Turning Readers into Your Biggest Book Promotors

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Over the years, serious fans have taken a variety of different shapes and been called everything from “Super Fan” to “Street Team” to “Tribe.” And while each of these terms is a great descriptor, not all mega fans are created equally.

We all know about Netflix reviving content like Gilmore Girls and others. And when The X-Files returned, it was because there was still such an active fan base. Some of these folks were Super Fans, and others were actual Street Teams.

What’s the difference?

Turns out, it’s a lot.

I often teach a class on this and the first question I get is: does my ARC or early reader team mean I have Super Fans or Street Teams? My answer is: that depends.

I’ve spoken to a lot of authors who have either mailing lists or actual reader groups eager to read their next book. The problem is that not all of these fans are equally engaged. Their levels of both interest and time will vary. Some folks are just too busy, but they enjoy your work and want to support you in any way they can. Sometimes that support comes in the form of opening and reading your newsletter or reading your latest books (as time permits, and often not at the same time as your book launch). But beyond that, they really don’t have much more to offer.

Still, they read our books and we love that they’re part of our tribe. The extent of this tribe, and how involved they are, will define whether they are a Street Team, or a Super Fan. So let’s look at the differences.

What is a Super Fan?

A Super Fan is someone who loves everything you do, buys everything you write, and gives love to (almost) every post you write. They may or may not be actively involved in your book launch, and though they buy your book, it might not be as soon as the book goes live.

If your early reader team doesn’t always turn in their reviews on time, you probably have a lot of Super Fans in there who might need to be moved out of the “free book in exchange for a review” group.

What is a Street Team?

If you have readers who are super eager for your next book, read it the week it’s out, always post a review, engage with you on social media, and participate in any promotions you offer, then this reader should probably be part of your Street Team.

Now that you're beginning to understand the differences between the two readers, it’s time to divide up your list and begin to work on how you will involve all of your readers – given that some may be more active than others!

Getting Started

So let’s say you have a newsletter list of about 3,000 people. You have a pretty good open rate on your newsletter, but the responses aren’t consistent. You tend to hear from the same people over and over again. This list is a good starting point. You’ll want to email them and let readers know that you’re starting a Street Team and Super Fans group and ask who might like to be a part of that. But first, let’s get a sense of what you’ll want them to do, or what you’ll need from each group, to be a part of this special tribe.

Building Your Fan Base

There are a few ways you can build your fan base. The first is to put a letter in the back of your book that invites readers to contact you. Make sure there’s a benefit for them in doing so—maybe they get a free chapter of your next book, or perhaps you have a newsletter sign up drawing that you want to invite them to participate in. In either case, I suggest that you put a sign up form on your website to start capturing folks who may want to be a part of this group!

You can see a sample sign up form here:

Taking Readers to the Next Level: Qualifying Your Street Team

When I teach these classes, I often get asked how many folks you need on your Street Team. The answer may surprise you. Street Teams, because of their engagement level, have a multiplier effect. So, 10 folks on a Street Team can feel like 50 or more. Also, I like the idea of starting with a smaller group—and you’ll see why in a minute.

A good Street Team member is someone who is often at the ready to help you with posting about your book on social, posting reviews, sharing your pricing specials, and whatever else you can come up with, which is why it’s good to outline expectations before you start down this path.

Outlining Expectations

So let’s say you’re sold on the idea of a Street Team. Someone to help you promote your book? Yes, please! Now where do you start?

The keys to getting your Street Team involved are: clear expectations, consistency, and ease of execution. If you’re going to build and nurture this tribe, you’ll want to set clear expectations about what they’ll do for you, and what they get in return. You might consider both public and private elements of their involvement with you. For example:

  • Ideas for promotions they can help you with; this is public
  • Ideas for content you should get their input on; this is private (this sort of plays into rewards as well so it’s a win-win)

If you want to dig even further, consider these options:

  • Sharing upcoming releases & release dates
  • Sharing discount eBook dates & promotions
  • Sharing industry reviews
  • Sharing stellar reader reviews
  • Sharing media coverage you get
  • Sharing blog coverage you get
  • Sharing your blog posts
  • And of course, reviewing your book!

Don’t change up your list, in fact once you define what they’ll do for you, be sure to create a checklist for them, due dates, whatever you want. These are the fans who want to help you! Just remember, they have to be rewarded in return.

Rewarding Your Street Team

Now comes the fun part, because your Street Team wants exclusive access, and you’re going to give them cool stuff they can’t get anywhere else! The first piece of this is going to be a free book. Your most dedicated Street Team members will get a book for free but to go beyond that, you could also offer rewards by way of exclusive contests which in turn, can help you create the best book possible. Some ideas are:

  • Choosing a cover
  • Choosing character images
  • Naming a new character
  • Naming a pet
  • Choosing a theme song or character song
  • Other story details that are unique to your book or characters
  • New concepts for upcoming titles
  • Website suggestions, changes, updates
  • Ideas for giveaways & contests (Yes! Let them weigh in!)
  • Individual chapter feedback
  • Image inspiration

Your Street Team, while helping you share cool stuff about your book, also becomes part of your marketing team, which is why I said early on that you don’t need a lot of them—10 super engaged and active members is better than 50 who don’t have the time to help you!

The other reason that I like smaller, more personal groups is because it allows you to do stuff other than fan rewards. Sending cards for birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. Maybe send them a small token for their birthday (like a $5 Starbucks or Amazon gift card). You can read more about the benefits of working with a smaller group here.

One thing I want to encourage is to not be shy about what they’ll get. Yes, they love your work and they want to help—but it’s the cool stuff that’ll keep them excited, as well as your personal attention, and gratitude!

What Happens with Your Super Fans?

Now let’s go back to your newsletter. Let’s say you’ve planned out your next book release, you know what you want your Street Team to do, and you can outline that in the newsletter. I’d really recommend creating a Google form that identifies various aspects of what it takes to be a Street Team member. So, a list of “here’s what you get, and here’s what I need from you.” You can always add to the list of bonuses they get as you move ahead with your Street Team and get a sense of what’s popular, but starting with sign-ups will help you pull folks onto your Street Team list, specifically.

The rest of your newsletter list shouldn’t be ignored though. Offer them early access to your book when it’s up for pre-order, maybe let them know when you’re getting ready to do a discounted book promotion, or you might offer them a BOGO (buy one, get one). The point is, they get *something* - make them feel important, but be understanding of their time limitations.

The effort to turn readers into Super Fans and Street Team members is a worthy one, and with a little effort you can easily create a group of avid followers, who are eager and willing to help you promote your books! And wouldn’t that be great?

Good luck!


How to Build an Author Platform

Penny C. Sansevieri

Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU and is the author of eighteen books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon, 5 Minute Book Marketing, and Red Hot Internet Publicity.