"Keep a Small but Dedicated Street Team" — Interviewing Eliot Peper
Eliot Peper is an author we've been following quite closely at Reedsy. Maybe it's because he started publishing around the same time we got started. Or maybe it's because we think alike in terms of publishing, marketing, building connections, etc.
Last month, he released the last book in his "Uncommon Stock" trilogy: Exit Strategy. So we decided to interview him again to see what he had learned between his first book launch and his third one. Turns out, he's learned a lot, and is sharing a particular piece of knowledge with us: "small is beautiful"!
Play the video below to learn how Eliot was able to build a small but ultra-dedicated "street team" to launch his books (with a 70%+ conversion rate). As usual, for the lovers of the written word, we also provide a transcript of the key learnings from this interview!
Today, Eliot’s third book is launching and I was one of the lucky people who got an advance copy — and it's awesome! Eliot, why don’t you introduce yourself and talk about your trilogy?
Sure - this book is called “Uncommon Stock: Exit Strategy” from the the Uncommon series which is a tech start-up thriller which follows a college student who drops out to start a startup software company and ends up becoming embroiled in an international financial conspiracy along the way. So, people have compared it to John Grisham for tech in the sense that it's a thriller that takes place in the startup world.
Yeah, I really empathize with the character and it’s an awesome book for all startup founders out there. I’d say it’s better to read that than a non-fiction book on e.g. fundraising or growing your startup. As to your book marketing, you have said that you really appreciate that your readership is small: it’s a niche. Why is that?
This is the third book I’ve written and secretly, when you write a book, in the back of your head, you would love it if there was mainstream appeal. Once the creative side is done, you have to then put on a different hat: now this piece of art is becoming a product, how does it reach the marketplace and how do readers find it? When I started I tried pitching major news magazines to get coverage and doing things that took so much energy by didn’t really have much Return on Investment. But when you read blogs on how books become bestsellers, that seems like what we should be doing.
For the second book, I approached it much differently. I went to Amazon reviews and left comments “Hey, I really like your review. As an Indie author this means a lot to me. If you’d like an advance copy of the next one, send me an email.” I was amazed! Over 70% of people responded and I was shocked!
Now that I’m with book three, I’m thinking again. Fundamentally, I’ve become much, much more interested in serving a few of my core readers and putting all my energy into that. That’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. I realized this is the bit that mattered, in the 99% of hot air that I blew. With me, I sent out a mailing list to a small list of people I knew who could be interested in the book. As they hadn’t opted in for a mailing list, a lot of people unsubscribed, but I was left with a core group that I could focus on.
Let’s get granular… how are you doing it?
Firstly I wrote the book! Then I asked 16 beta readers to give me feedback and 9 people who actually gave feedback. This was whilst I was doing editing with my actual editor. Once we had a copy with multiple revisions, design, formatting into all the format, I then built a list of advance review copy readers. These readers are different: I’m not expecting advanced editorial feedback, but the goal for them is that they are fans who are excited enough to read the book before it launches, leave an Amazon review, catch any minor errors and be the champions of the book.
I reached out to 126 people, but, critically, I sent them a very short email. I didn’t just send them an advance copy right away, I asked if they would like to be included. My hope was, if people said yes, they would have a much higher chance of actually leaving a review. It acted as a useful filter. This was about a month before launch. I also had a separate list of friends and influencers who had some history with the books before, and who might have a larger audience to share their enthusiasm with.
Even on my Facebook post, I’ve learnt something: what I found was that for the first book, my post was an announcement, with links to Amazon. This time, because it’s my dog’s birthday, I took a picture of my dog, put the three books in front of her and took a few more funny pictures, making the post more personal. The reason why my approach has changed is because I realized that, for the first book, I was approaching the book from my perspective. “It would be great for me if people shared my book.” Or “It would be great for me if a journalist picked it up”. So essentially it was really selfish and comes across as self-promotional.
Now I think: as a user of Facebook, what posts do I like best? Really putting your audience first, before thinking about yourself, is the best way to get perspective, even in the hailstorm of personal self-doubt that is a book launch.
Yes, and if you’ve got a real connection with you readers, you feel more comfortable in sharing more personal things. Thanks for your time, and congrats on getting the Uncommon Stock trilogy out there!
The entire "Uncommon Stock" trilogy is available on Amazon! Check it out here!
How big is your "street team"? Do you agree that keeping a small audience makes it easier for the author to promote his books? Leave us your thoughts, or any questions for Elliot, in the comments below!