The Power of Tribes in Marketing

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tribes in marketing lillian jackson braun book signing

Lillian Jackson Braun

One way to approach marketing your book is to think of the tribes out there that not only would be interested in it, but want to know more about it!

Yes, there will be people who are curious about your book if it reflects their interests. I learned that lesson at a cat show.

My wife and I love, well, tolerate cats. Love them when they’re purring in my lap, not so much when I step on someone’s hurked-up breakfast in a darkened hallway. Years ago, a cat group in Charlotte held a show, and Teresa and I went to see the kitties.

The show was exactly what you’d expect: a room full of people with their cats. Lots of noise, meowing, cooing, and judging. But there was a sideshow going on down one of the hallways. A line of people holding books, patiently waiting to see an elderly woman seated at a table.

The woman was Lilian Jackson Braun, the author of more than two dozen mystery novels featuring a newspaper reporter and his two Siamese cats. She was already a best-selling author, yet three decades after her first book appeared, she was in Charlotte, signing books.

Think about the types of people she reached that day. Cat owners who read mysteries; cat owners who don’t necessarily read mysteries, but who were curious about her books, or who wanted a unique memento of their day; mystery fans who learned of her appearance and were there specifically to meet her.

Best of all, she was the only mystery writer in the building. Heck, she was the only author in the building. Talk about a monopoly!

Not only that, but by tapping into a group that shares an affinity for the same subject you’re writing about, you’re spreading the word to a group of people who love to talk about that subject. They’re always looking for something new to discuss, and you’re giving them that. “Ever hear of Braun? She appeared at the cat show I was at last weekend.” “Really? I never heard of her. I’ll have to check out her books.”

So one amazingly effective way to market your book is by reaching out to groups who would be naturally interested in it, but who don’t get much love from authors. These can be the groups you work with regularly, as well as those you haven’t but who share your enthusiasm and interest.

I learned this lesson from Paul Bishop, the retired detective and author of more than 15 novels. In an interview with the Author Biz podcast, he described the various ways he asked groups for help to promote his latest police procedural, “Lie Catchers.”

According to Bishop, it takes a certain set of skills to be an effective interrogator. It’s like being an improv actor, only you’re working with someone, the suspect, who might know something about the crime you have to ferret out. Depending on the crime, your goals, your knowledge of human behavior, you have to figure out how to apply the right amount of pressure to get the information or confession you want.

To promote “Lie Catchers,” Bishop listed the groups that he was involved with who might be interested in the novel:

* Police officers were a natural fit, so Bishop wrote articles about interrogation techniques for “American Police Beat,” a magazine with a large nationwide circulation.

* A member of the Mormon church, he wrote an article for the denomination’s online magazine on how to write interesting books that meet the church’s standards.

tribes in marketing Paul Bishop

Paul Bishop, center back, talking with Martini in the Morning.

* An aficionado of jazz and lounge music, he used his mention of the online radio station Martini in the Morning in the book to snag a two-hour interview with them.

* His audiobook version of “Lie Catchers” was used as gifts and reviews on audiobook forums.

* A local used bookstore he frequented in Ventura, California, agreed to host a signing that was promoted to its customers in the store’s newsletter.

* At his blog on the Huffington Post and on his website, he wrote about film noir, hoping to lure search traffic looking for material on that subject. As a film noir fan, he also sprinkle details about his favorite films in the book.

* Even writers and podcasts (including the Author Biz) were approached to discuss the lessons he learned from marketing his books.

When using this technique, remember that the book must satisfy the tribe you’re marketing to, and that your article, interview, or blog post, is tailored toward their interests.

As Paul puts it, “tell the members of each tribe specifically what was in it for them to part with the cost of one to three Starbucks visits. This isn’t selfish on their part, it’s simply predictable human behavior.”

And if there’s anyone who knows something about human behavior, it’s an expert interrogator.