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 bombarded by questions from us. The biggest question we had was ‘Why Mailchimp?’ and Avery answered our questions by pointing us towards an article called sendinblue vs mailchimp. 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!