After I published my book, I reached out to a friend of mine who works in public relations. I asked her where should I begin with promoting my book. She looked at me and said that I need to reach out to my network. I looked at her like she was crazy. I didn’t have a network, a posse of people waiting to spread the word about my book. Some people knew I was writing a book or finished it based on word of mouth or what I posted on social media, but not everyone was banging down my door to help spread the word and promote it. I mean I couldn’t call up Oprah to get my novel into her book club, or my best friend didn’t work for the NY Times. Who was my network?
So my friend calmed me down, took a sip of coffee, and smiled. She told me that I was already building my network and I didn’t even know it. In fact, I had been building my network my entire life and was still building it. She shared a trick with me. She put my name in the center of a blank piece of paper. She then branched off from my name and started drawing boxes. The first box she wrote was Immediate Circle. That encompassed close friends and family. Then on another branch she drew another box and in the center she wrote the name of the company I worked at. Another branch was the college I graduated from. Next was high School, then the church I attended, then social or volunteer groups I belonged to. Before we knew it there were ten boxes around my name. But we weren’t done.
She then branched off from each of those boxes to create sub-groups. From my alma mater, for example, I could reach out to someone I knew in the Alumni Relations department to tell her about my book. From my Immediate Circle I had a friend who worked in the publishing company Random House who could spread the word to some friends and co-workers. From my job I could reach out to my own Public Relations department to perhaps do an article about my writing journey. Before we knew it the page was filled, but that was only the beginning and I was soon scribbling on the back of the page as well.
Now it’s your turn. Put your name in the center of the page and then start building branches off of your name and watch how the tree grows. Remember it’s ok if you don’t know someone directly who works at a local newspaper, but you may find that Uncle Harry used to work there, or knows someone who knows someone who works there. You see where I am going with this. Once you know your network, it’s up to you to do the following:
- Reach out to your direct contacts to let them know about your book. Maybe give out a few free copies or host a book launch party to get them excited about the novel (see previous blog post about hosting a book launch party).
- If the person you are trying to reach is not a direct contact, ask your direct contact if he/she can introduce you to this person, whether it be the editor of a newspaper, president of a book club, or whoever it is that you are trying to reach to help you market and promote your work.
- Create a press release, or ask someone to help you write it to be objective. Send the press release out to local newspapers, or ask your direct contacts to forward to someone they may know directly.
- Compile your list of contacts (emails, phone #’s, etc) and be sure to follow-up in a week or two to stay on their radar. They are busy just like you are. You will find that most people want to help but they are not sure how. For example, if you reach out to your former middle school teacher, find out if there are any opportunities to speak to the students at the school, or perhaps be interviewed for the school newspaper.
- Be persistent! There will be times when people cannot or will not help. Don’t take it to heart and instead go back to your network tree and see who else you can reach out to. And perhaps 6 months from now that same editor of the local newspaper who didn’t get back to you will see your press release and will be interested in publishing a great story like yours. You’ll never know unless you put yourself and your work out there.
- If someone does help or offer assistance in some way, be sure to send a thank you note to show your appreciation.
So continue to build your network by making new friends and contacts along the way. Don’t be afraid to talk about your book and your writing journey. YOU should be YOUR biggest promoter. Someone asked me the other day if I would recommend my book to read. I said it would be pretty sad if I didn’t. Remember, if you don’t rave about your book, and absolutely love your story, why should you expect someone else to read it? Love your story and your journey and remember to thank all the people that help you along the way.
Here is an example of what can happen if you reach out to your network. The Manager of Corporate Communications at my job heard that I had written and published a novel. He asked if he could interview me for the company’s newsletter. I was flattered and excited to be able to share my story with my co-workers, some who didn’t know that I was published. It has helped me grow my network as well as some new fans, including the Senior VP’s daughters who came in for Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day. If he didn’t read the article he never would have known about my book, or have introduced my story to his children.
Here is the spotlight article that was in my company’s newsletter this past month, written by William Degirolamo.
Melissa knew she had a penchant for the written word from an early age. Ever since third grade, when her teacher, Mrs. Dawber, read one of her short stories out loud for the class, she was hooked on writing. Since then, she’s thrown herself at the mercy of her pen.
What started out as an interest in writing short stories blossomed into a desire to push the limits of fiction. Melissa grew interested in long-form fiction and playwriting, and even considered getting into TV writing. But it was at a playwriting conference in Southampton, where her calling revealed itself.
“A mentor at the conference suggested that I try writing young adult fiction,” she said. “It wasn’t something I had considered before, but it immediately felt like a fit.”
Since then, Melissa has gone on to publish The Hypothesis of Giants, a young adult book series. Inspired by a dream she had, the first book in the series, The Assumption, focuses on two young teenagers, Aurora and Boreas, who must help Otus, a thirtyfoot giant, prevent a cataclysmic event from occurring. The setting is dystopian and fantastical like something out of the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series. Typically a self-described spontaneous writer who
doesn’t plan the direction of her stories beforehand, Melissa took an alternate approach when outlining The Hypothesis of Giants. Her creative process was very calculated, and she planned out all four books in the series before putting pen to paper. Having now completed writing books two and three – and prepping them for publication soon – Melissa is currently finishing the final installment.
“Everyone seems to think that the hardest part about being an author is the writing. But when you have a good idea, the words seem to tumble out of your fingers and onto the page.”
For Melissa, the biggest challenge was deciphering the business behind it. To introduce herself to the publishing world, after self-publishing several short stories, she created a website (www.melissakuch.com) and became very active on social media (@kuchmelissa), where she’s amassed a significant following. This combination of skills – both abstract creativity and the ability to navigate business challenges – has helped Melissa succeed in her career in media strategy. She’s found that her knack for thinking outside the box has helped tremendously in bringing innovative solutions to the table for clients, and her open-mindedness allows her to excel when writing plans, emails to clients, and presentations.
But the greatest thing about being a published author? Handing a copy of the book to the person who was her earliest inspiration (and to whom the book was dedicated), Mrs. Dawber. “It was such a fantastic and affirming moment. Being able to show the physical book that I wrote to the person who made me fall in love with writing gave me an indescribable feeling. Throughout the experience, I learned that if you’re passionate about something, you need to go for it because, who knows, your dream might just come true.”
Learn more about The Hypothesis of Giants on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1eWEXng.