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Street teams: Effective or dangerous?
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Ever since RWA a couple weeks ago, the Internet’s been buzzing about street teams, especially for authors who are with indie publishers or who self-publish. They don’t have big NYC publishers with marketing departments to back them up.

On Twitter, Roni Loren talked about starting one or hiring an assistant. Author and Evernight marketing leader Sandra Pesso has mentioned them. Monday, fellow NASW13 author Dawn Pendleton started recruiting for one.

I’d heard of them before, but didn’t understand what exactly they did. I mean, isn’t your core readership/fandom an organic street team?

Yes and no.

What are they?

Street teams are a grassroots effort to generate buzz and sales — they started in the music industry but have been popular in publishing for a number of years now.

An official street team expects certain things. For a look at specifics and the negatives, here’s a fantastic article by “Jane” on Dear Author. I’ve been hard-pressed to find stories of successful street teams, except when their promotion gets out of hand and they bring unintended publicity (for other mediums, not authors/books).

I’ll admit, I love the concept in its altruistic form. Who better to hand-sell books and effectively use word-of-mouth than readers/fans who truly love your work? It sounds like a win-win! The author gets genuine endorsements and marketing, while members of the street team get exclusive access to the author, as well as incentives like special content, ARCs, swag, etc. –maybe even access to a closed street team group on Facebook.

Landmines

This is where I think things have the potential to go off the track. When does a street team become a clique? What is “enough” when it comes to incentives? Postcards, bookmarks, swag, mailings, those are all really expensive for the author.

What if the author unintentionally favors some members over others? It happens. Will disgruntled members turn on the author and begin leaving bad reviews? I’d like to be optimistic, but it’s foolish to forget that humans are complicated creatures with feelings and expectations, different points of view and ideas of what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

I’d love to hear from you. If you’re an author, have you used this concept? How did it work out? If you’re a reader, have you joined a street team? If not, would you?

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