by Joel Pitney
Some of us are natural born networkers. You know the type . . . they never lunch alone, they seem to specialize in connecting people in ways that benefit both parties, they have no problem promoting themselves or their projects or ideas in ways that aren’t off-putting.
In my experience, most authors aren’t natural born networkers (if you’re an exception, my apologies). We tend to be more of the wallflower types, happy to write and create and let others do the talking and promoting.
But in this day and age, most authors can’t afford to sit on the sidelines and more and more is being demanded of us to actively promote our own work. In fact, when it comes to launching a book, networking—or learning how to best leverage your networks—is perhaps the single most important factor driving your success. As I like to say, “It takes a village to launch a book.”
The good news is that even the least networky among us can still employ strategies to help build and rally a tribe to promote our book. Most people I work with are surprised by how many people they already have in their lives who are willing to help them out in promoting their books. And with a little time and dedication, they find that the process of building new relationships is much easier and more rewarding than they ever would have expected.
Of course, networking can be difficult, so I’ve put together a step-by-step battle plan that I use to help people leverage and grow their networks, or what I like to call “relationship ecosystems.”
Step 1—Drawing Your Relationship Map
When you start the process of launching your book, one of the first things you should do is to make a map of your entire relationship ecosystem. Who do you know, and how can those people help you, in ways big and small, to promote your book?
As you go through this exercise, please be open-minded and creative. Don’t immediately write off your Aunt Sally, for example, because she doesn’t have a “big name.” Maybe she would be willing to write an Amazon customer review for you. And don’t be intimidated by the “big fish” on your list. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to take the time to help you out. They got help from someone else at some point and most folks are happy to “pay it forward.”\
So the first thing you should do is make your list. I like to divide people into three general categories:
- Existing contacts: Those you already have relationships with that you can rally behind your book. This could be family, friends, or colleagues.
- Friends of friends: Influencers who your close friends and colleagues might be able to connect you with. Ask your friends for an introduction.
- New Partners: Bloggers, thought leaders, other authors, etc. who have clout with to your target audience(s) that you can reach out to and start building relationships with right now. This could be a big-name author that you want an endorsement from, or an influential blogger who you think might be willing to feature your book.
In thinking about who to add to the lists above, consider the following types of people:
- Email Blasters: Individuals or organizations with large email lists that will promote your book to their subscribers.
- Endorsers: Influential voices within your target audience that would be willing to write you an endorsement.
- Bloggers/Websites: Websites or blogs where your target audience tends to get information that will review your book, interview you, or feature a guest article.
- Media: People with access to TV, radio, and print media that would be willing to feature your work.
- Non-Profits: Organizations dedicated to the same or similar mission that you’re promoting with your book that might be willing to partner with you (send out a mailing, use your book as a fundraiser, etc.).
- Business Owners: People who might be willing to buy large volumes of your book to give away to their employees, constituents.
- Other influencers: Any other people who have “influence” and access to networks that would be willing to partner with you on the book launch.
Make a spreadsheet with the names and contact information of the people you’d like to reach out to. For those you don’t know, you can usually find contact information on their websites (it even works to use the contact form on a website if no other information is available).
For a deep dive into building your author platform and using it to launch your book, check out the amazing Book Launch Toolkit, “It’s got every tool, every idea, and every possible angle you can finesse to give your book the chance to succeed in an ever-crowded marketplace.”—Martin Turnbull, Author of the Garden of Allah Novels
Step 2 – Creating An Outreach Package
Once you’re armed with your relationship map, it’s time to start reaching out! But before you do, it’s important to have the right message. You can assemble a variety of outreach materials and talking points that you can use in your communications. Here’s what I recommend:
- Promotional materials: Compelling documents describing the book, the author, and your launch campaign. This could include a press release, an excerpt from the book, or in some cases, the entire manuscript.
- Specific requests: Every partner will bring a unique contribution to your campaign. Make sure to be clear about exactly what you want your partner to do for you (i.e., send an email, write an endorsement, etc.) and ask them.
- Outreach materials: In some cases, you may also want to include sample materials that your partners can use to promote the book for you. This could be copy for email promotions, headshots, cover image, etc.
Remember, you can have different messages for different categories of people.
Step 3 – Reaching Out
Once you’ve made your list and assembled your outreach materials, it’s time to start reaching out. Here are a few tips for making sure that you maximize your outreach efforts:
- Personalize: The more personal your communications, the better. People know when they’re being communicated to en masse. A little extra time to make personalized emails or even phone calls will go a long way towards your success.
- Patience & Persistence: People are busy, and often don’t get back to you right away. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested. Follow-up with people. Try another medium of communication. Be persistent!
- Evolve Your Strategy: As you progress in your partnership outreach campaign, you will likely find new potential partners and come up with new ways to leverage your existing networks.
- Get Comfortable with Rejection: I liken the networking process to throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. If you really go for it and reach out to a lot of people, you will inevitably face a lot of non-responses or outright “no’s.” But that’s okay! Hidden amongst the “no’s” will be a significant number of “yes’s”, and these make all the difference!
Again, putting in some hours early on in your campaign to develop a strong partnership-building strategy will lead to a big pay off at launch time. So start early!!!
I hope you’ve found this helpful. Please let me know any questions or tips of your own in the comments below.
Joel Pitney is a writer, filmmaker, and book launch specialist. You
can learn more about his book marketing services and author website
design at www.launchmybook.com.