KimberlyAveryRobinThe “buddy system” isn’t just for swimming! Three contemporary romance authors, Robin Covington, Avery Flynn, and Kimberly Kincaid, offer up the goods on how to make cooperative marketing work for you.

The world of marketing can be a daunting place, but writers can turn that fear into fun with cooperative (or “group”) marketing. First thing’s first. You’re going to need a group. You’ll want to factor in things like similarity in writing style and subgenre, as well as finding a partner or partners with similar career goals. Your group should be a solid fit with a little wiggle room for individuality so you can all bring something to the table (for example, Avery is our Mail Chimp guru, and Robin is our “fine print” expert, while I have experience with self-publishing. Each of us knows things the other two aren’t as familiar with, and everybody wins when we all share!) Also, consider how big (or not big) you’d like to go. Groups can be successful with two or twelve, as long as everyone’s on the same page with sharing responsibility and keeping open communication.

Once you’ve formed your group, you’re going to want to set parameters. Guidelines are important so that way there are no curveballs once you get going. Dividing up things like cost and time management is essential. Since there are three of us, we rotate our online newsletter by the month, so each of us puts it together four times a year (plus taking turns at special release day emails). Avery knows Mail Chimp really well (just one of her mad, mad skills!), she gave Robin and I a tutorial to learn the ins and outs, and voila! Instead of having to sit down every month to write up a newsletter, each of us only does it four times a year. And we got to pool our mailing lists. And-and, now our readers get a triple dose of fun releases. Everybody wins!

Kimberly already touched on how we put together out monthly newsletter – we each take turns and take responsibility for it four times per year. But we had lots to agree on before we ever hit “send” on that first on the first one. Everything from the color scheme to the format of the newsletter was decided by the group. As the Mailchimp expert, Avery was a trooper and put together models for us to look at and when we agreed on a layout, it was a go. We have a super cute pup wearing glasses at the top and our first newsletter had a contest for a reader to name him – Mr. McLover. We highlight the book that is being released that month and that person supports the giveaway with prizes. And whenever the three of us go to a book signing or a conference, we take a sign up sheet and collect subscribers.

Man Wars . . . who thought pictures of half-naked hotties would gain more readers?  (Yes, I’m being sarcastic) We all write sexy stuff and I had a very popular man-candy photo album on Facebook and I participated in Monday Man Wars on Twitter. We started Friday Man Wars as a way to raise exposure and it has done that and more. Every week we gain friends, likes and followers and newsletter subscribers. By keeping the emphasis on the sexy, we avoid diluting our individual brands. Avery delivers her sexy with suspense and humor, Kimberly serves it up alongside a delicious recipe, and I like to provide my sexy with a heavy dose of Alpha male. And using FB and Twitter makes it so easy to share and support each other’s releases and special events.

OK, enough with the free stuff. Let’s spend some money.

Cooperative advertising is simply pooling your money, time and resources for advertising opportunities – including promotional items.

An example of this was an ad I had scheduled to run on a big review site that I had to reserve eons ahead of knowing my exact release date. Guess what? My book didn’t come out when I thought it would. (Shocker, right?) So … I turn to my trusty partners in crime. Kim had a book coming out at that time and bought the ad spot from me. Instead of having to swallow the cost of the ad – or advertising an old book – we had a win/win situation. This also comes into play when it is for an expensive spot. All Romance E-Books does this with their cover ad that runs in RT Magazine.

When it comes to time and resources, it’s all about what each member brings to the table be it connections, referrals, design ability, copy writing, proofing, etc.

LoveGogglesWhen it comes to promotional items, the more you buy the cheaper the per item cost is. Also, if you have a big buy, you can skip sites like VistaPrint, Zazzle and others. Those are great for small quantities, but can be murder on your cash-flow in big numbers. When you’re making a cooperative promotion purchase, you need to look for things that include all of you. For example, we have a Friday Man War every Friday (shocker) on Facebook. We have made cooperative buys on Friday Man Wars buttons, bags and other swag that we include in giveaways.

Also, we share our own branded promo with each other and when we are doing an individual giveaway, we include goodies from each other to help each other spread name recognition and increase readership. For example, I have some great doorknob hangers from Robin and swag from Kimberly that will go in the giveaway loot for my upcoming release, High-Heeled Wonder.

So there you have it! A quick primer on collaborative marketing. While each group will have a unique dynamic likely cultivated by some trial and error, there’s one thing the three of us know for sure. As far as successful marketing goes, there’s often safety in numbers!

21 comments to “Marketing – The Buddy System”

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  1. Jeff Salter - January 8, 2014 Reply

    Not trying to sprinkle gunpowder into the campfire, but I’m wondering about the composition of the group. Specifically HOW the three of y’all realized that it would be you particular three. Furthermore, what process would you use if you ever decided to add a fourth to the mix?
    And, if — for whatever reasons — one of y’all had to take a sabbatical (or even quit) … what would you do?

    • Avery Flynn - January 8, 2014 Reply

      Hey Jeff! I’m totally stealing your gunpowder into the campfire line. It’s great!
      The whole thing kind of came together by happy accident. Robin, Kim and I were friends first. Then we became critique partners. Then we each were complaining about how we needed to do a newsletter, but no one wanted to go alone. I saw that Eloisa James does a group newsletter with another author (sorry name escaping me at the moment) and we thought that would be a great way to get ourselves out there without having to being all by ourselves. So it all happened organically (KK uses that word all the time and has now infected me). Would we ever add a fourth? I don’t know. I hate to say never, but I’m not feeling it right now. We’re sort of a nice trifecta of evil already. 😉 And if someone wanted to quit/go on sabbatical? I don’t think that would be a problem – still I hope it doesn’t ever happen. World domination is so much harder in lower numbers. 🙂

      • Kimberly Kincaid - January 8, 2014 Reply

        Gotta agree with Avery here. I hate to get all schmaltzy, but we all just sort of “knew” we were a good fit. We’re similar in where we are career-wise, write with the same sort of style, yet we’re all individual enough that we could all bring something unique to the experience. It really did just fall into place, and while we worked hard at it, we were also a bit lucky in that regard. We’re also all go-getters (no one shirks her duties, for sure!), yet we trust each other enough to share responsibility. It was cultivated over time, but for us, it works. I can’t see us adding a fourth without rocking the dynamic we’ve built, but again…never is a naughty word! If one of us needed a break, we’d support her and figure out a new balance. That said…I hope they never leave me 😉

        • Robin Covington - January 8, 2014 Reply

          I’m ditching your butt as soon as I can . . . oh no .. did I say that out loud?

          • Avery Flynn - January 8, 2014

            But only the butt. She’s staying for your long luscious hair. *snort*

          • Kimberly Kincaid - January 8, 2014

            CLEARLY, we are good friends on top of all the marketing 😉

    • Robin Covington - January 8, 2014 Reply

      Jeff – this group is like the mob . . . you never get to leave . . .

      I think if one of us had to/wanted to take a break, it would be alright. We are friends first and we support each other 100% – so if that is what they needed to do, we’d figure it out.

      As for a 4th . . I don’t know I I would inflict that pain on anyone else. But, we’d have to of through the same analysis we did before – would it be a good fit for all of us and for their individual brand as well?

  2. Larissa Reinhart - January 8, 2014 Reply

    Great post, ladies! I enjoy your man wars. I have a street team with my friend, LynDee Walker, so I’m a great believer in the buddy system. What promotional sites have you used for your marketing swag? I’ve been using Vistaprint b/c it’s so easy, but I know it’s more expensive than others.

    • Avery Flynn - January 8, 2014 Reply

      Hey Larissa (who is one of my favorite Georgians)! We’ve used Inkhead for promo also a button site, but Robin found that one. If she rolls out of the sick bed today, I’m sure she’ll be able to tell you.

  3. Robin Covington - January 8, 2014 Reply

    I love just buttons.org and Discount Mugs.com.

    I’ve also had some super cute things printed at York Photo.com

  4. Kimberly Kincaid - January 8, 2014 Reply

    I’ve used Discount Mugs too, for chapter stuff. They’ve got great customer service!

  5. Marsha R. West - January 8, 2014 Reply

    Hey, ladies. I knew you did the Friday man wars together, but I never got that it was such an organized thing. Besides the stuff you do together, do you each have your own websites and blogs? I remember hearing Kristin Lamb talk about how important it was to have your own brand. Or do you think because your write in a similar vein, you don’t need to do that?
    Think you’re really lucky to have hit on the right combination of people to do this with.

    • Avery Flynn - January 8, 2014 Reply

      We do a lot together, but there’s plenty we keep separate. We all have our own Street Teams, websites, Twitter, FB, etc. Also when we have releases, we’ll share the same mailing list, but send out individual the-book’s-here announcements to readers. That’s the beauty of it, we share nicely but stand on our own too. 🙂

      • Kimberly Kincaid - January 8, 2014 Reply

        Oh yes, we definitely keep a lot of things separate. I agree 100% that individual branding is crucial. But with the way we keep our individuality (for example, I write foodie contemporaries, and it’s a huge part of my branding, whereas Robin’s books are notoriously sexy and Avery’s have that great thread of suspense), doing the cooperative marketing gives us the best of both worlds.

  6. Susan Scott Shelley - January 8, 2014 Reply

    I love Friday Man Wars 🙂
    Thank you for sharing your marketing strategy, such great information!
    Congrats on your success, individually and as a group!

    • Kimberly Kincaid - January 8, 2014 Reply

      Ah, Man Wars. We love it too! To be truthful, it kicked off a lot of the cooperative efforts we’ve made. Who knew, right? 🙂

      • Avery Flynn - January 8, 2014 Reply

        Hot men make everything better. True. Story.

  7. Debra Sennefelder - January 9, 2014 Reply

    Thank you, ladies for sharing this information. Great idea!

  8. Arlene Hittle - January 10, 2014 Reply

    Bookmarked this to read a couple of days ago, and finally sat down to do it. Thanks for the great info, ladies. I’ve been wondering how to boost my FB page and mailing list. Sounds like I need to find myself a group of like-minded authors.

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