Monday, July 1, 2013

What's a Street Team? Delaware Gay Marriage

What's a Street Team?

I've been hearing the term Street Team for at least the past five years and I've never really paid much attention to it. First, the books and stories I write are predominantly erotic gay romance and my readership tends to be discreet. So I never thought it would be a viable way to promote erotic romance of any kind. And, a Street Team always seemed like so much work to me that it might take away from my writing time, which always comes first and foremost on my agenda.

For a long time I used to wonder why a relatively unknown author with a relatively small start up e-press, or a self-pubbed author, would have a book released and all of a sudden over fifty reviews would show up on Amazon and other social media the same day of release. Even the shadiest author can't put up THAT many fake good reviews in less than one day, nor could he/she find that many family members or friends to write great reviews for them. So that wasn't plausible. And these reviews are always stellar...we're talking things like, "This is the best book and the best author I have ever read in my life." And yet I'm always thinking quietly, "Who the fuck is this?"

I often read books by national bestselling authors with huge publishers the day they are released. And then when I'm finished I have to wait to leave a review on Amazon for a few weeks because I don't want to be one of the first 100 to leave my review...especially if I'm not fond of the book. And most of all, I know from my own personal experience with my own books that reader reviews on web sites like Amazon take time to trickle in...weeks and months sometimes.

So when I see these small books by unknown authors getting over fifty reviews on the same day I wonder what's going on. And the only thing I can come up with are Street Teams. I would guess (and hope) the author with a Street Team hands out as many review copies as possible and that's how he/she gets the great reviews all in one day, because I don't find it plausible that all those people would read a long book in one sitting. I also wouldn't want to think that Street Teams just put up review without reading the book. And I don't want to speculate on anything else with regard to sales ranks. In the same respect, I'm far from being an expert on this topic, but this definition below seemed to sum things up well for me.

So by definition a Street Team is a group of fans who canvas/haunt/stalk places and promote you. For writers that would be internet sites, blogs, book stores, cafes, libraries, and of course word of mouth. Basically your Street Team is creating buzz about your work. They can go armed with paraphernalia i.e. bookmarks, fliers, promo items like pens, magnets and key chains or just a smile and a recommendation. My understanding is this concept was first hatched by fans of rock and roll groups who wanted to spread the word. It is a grassroots type of operation. And in this business we know it’s all about the buzz.

I would imagine, by this definition of Street Team, this is why I'm probably seeing unknown authors on social media getting an unusual amount of attention. In some cases I've seen support that doesn't even make sense. I have never used a Street Team, and I don't know any other authors personally who use them. But I could be wrong about that. Because of the nature of Street Teams there are allegedly many authors who don't mention the fact that they have Street Teams. But not all. Some are open about it, and if I did ever decide to do something like this I would be open about it, too. I think that's only fair to readers. In other words, these Street Teams are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. I would like to think they really are fans of the authors, but they are also getting something in return from the author. This article explains that part of the process well:

Of course I offer free stuff as well. They get swag for being part of my group and then I offer gift cards and chocolates here and there as a way to say thank you for all the promoting they do. But I’m the type of person who likes to be part of their lives – so when they lose a loved one, when there is a wedding, Easter, Christmas, birthdays…they are not JUST my street team – they have become my friends.

It sounds like the perfect set up, and for all I know it might be. But one thing that I would worry about with a Street Team would be how I'm being promoted and represented by them. I don't like the idea of giving up that much control, and I don't know how I would react to people writing things about me or my books, on my behalf, and turning me into someone I'm not. That might work out well for some authors in the short term who only have a few books out they want to promote so they can garner sales and attention at any cost. But if you're in this business for the long haul, like I've been for the past twenty years, you want your image (or brand) to reflect who you are over a long period of time. And if someone starts posting things on facebook to promote me in a way I wouldn't normally do it I would feel as if I've lost control of my career to a certain extent.

And to be perfectly honest, even though I'm curious about Street Teams and I'm by no means knocking them, I have to admit that those small authors who I've seen on social media where an aggressive group of fandom promotes them aggressively are not people I pay much attention to for a long time. At first I'm curious. I think this might look interesting. But when it starts becoming too fake, I stop paying attention. And I think most people feel the same way I do about those things on social media.

Something else I'm curious about is whether or not small publishers use Street Teams to promote their businesses in a general sense. In the past five years or so I have seen more than a few small start up e-presses pound onto the scene with aggressive attacks on social media that always leave me wondering. The problem is not everyone admits to this, especially not small aggressive publishers. And since I can't find any information on that topic, I can write a viable post about it.

It's also hard to find information about how readers feel about Street Teams. That's an important factor to me, too. I think it's hard to find this information because most readers who follow authors on social media don't know the authors are hocking them with Street Teams, and most readers think all the attention the author is getting is because he or she wrote a great book and people fell in love with it. I would be willing to bet most of the people reading this post never heard of a Street Team until now. In that respect, whether you like them or not, Street Teams can be valuable for a short period of time. Only I can't help wondering how valuable they are over a long span of time if the author or publisher truly wants to build a long term career in a specific genre.

Now that I'm curious about Street Teams, there will be more to come as I learn more about them.

Delaware Gay Marriage

Gay marriage is now legal in the State of Delaware. I find this particularly exciting because Delaware isn't far from Buck County, PA, and I often go there to visit friends, family, and do some shopping (it's also sales tax free).

In New Castle County, state Sen. Karen Peterson and Vikki Brandy became the first legally married same-sex couple in the state, signing their marriage certificate this morning, according to the Wilmington News Journal.

You can read more here.

I hope things keep moving this quickly. I recently learned Senator Daylin Leach of Pennsylvania introduced a bill for same sex marriage in PA.


Leach: “There is absolutely no rational reason in my view that same sex couples should not get married … should not have the same rights … I don’t know why some sort of ‘marriage light’ or second class citizenship should be imbued upon same-sex couples.”



4 comments:

Molly Church said...

From my pov, I think that street teams aim to look grassroots (and may even genuinely be grassroots) but they tend come across as astroturfing.

I also think that what worked for bands in the pre-internet era may not work that well for authors in the internet age. And I think it's telling that despite the buzz, you have no idea who the hype is about -- it's great to get great reviews, but if they're all coming from people whom you've given copies of your story to, that's not particularly promising in terms of attention or sales.



ryan field said...

That's an excellent point you made. That's how I feel sometimes. I see the buzz and wonder why.

Bored in the USA said...

Street teams? What will they think of next?
But what an interesting idea...But might it not go the other way? Instead of an author using a street team, what if such a team got hold of and used an author? Kind of made the author their bitch, forcing him/her to write what THEY want in return for their continued support?
How would the author feel once he/she realized that their desire to have their voice heard led them to give up the right to decide what it is that will be said?
So, they get their wish...they're now famous and widely-read. But, on the flip side, none of the ideas they express are really their own.
Sorry, I just have this tendency to put a dystopian spin on everything.

ryan field said...

Everything you mentioned is valid.