The publishing landscape is, unfortunately, littered with books that never sold more than a few hundred (or even a few dozen copies). What makes the difference between a book that sells and one that doesn’t? There are number of factors, but I’ve found one that makes a tremendous difference, particularly with non-fiction books, is the power of networking.
For example, one self-publishing project I worked on, a leadership and life skills book and course for teens, found its way into educational networks, first in the Family & Consumer Science field, and more recently in the “at-risk” and alternative education realms. The books and its curricular resources are experiencing widespread success in public schools around the country, as well as in mentor organizations, and has been published in Indonesia and most recently in China.
Another author I worked with had his book and accompanying workbooks picked up by an international Christian ministry organization and ultimately translated into a number of languages including French, German, Arabic, Chinese, and more. As a result of the impetus initially gained through that ministry’s networks and international reach, the program is now experiencing widespread success not only in multiple countries, but on multiple continents.
Yet another, a marriage enrichment course developed by a non-profit organization in Seattle, fell into military networks. It eventually became one of only a few such courses approved by the Department of Defense for distribution and use on DOD installations in the U.S. and internationally.
The common denominator in the success of all these self-published projects was undoubtably the power of networking. How can an average author or organization hope to experience similar success through networking? Here are 10 tips:
- Identify what networks you want to get into. Who would like to read your book or use your curricular resources? At first, when we were launching the leadership and life skills books, we thought they might be a good fit for public school counselors. So, our first conference was with the NASC (National Association of School Counselors). It was there that multiple visitors to our booth told us, “You should really be at the national CTE (Career & Technical Educators) conference!” We heeded their advice, found our tribe with the FACS (Family & Consumer Science) teachers we met there, and the rest is history.
- Start by making a comprehensive list of probable organizations. It’s best to do this with a group of friends or colleagues, to broaden the list of ideas and possibilities.
- Brainstorm whom you know in those organizations. Assign various individuals the responsibility of reaching out to their contacts. A personal connection is your best calling card!
- Create and rehearse your basic branding:
- two-sentence summary of your book
- 30-second elevator pitch
- Develop an email list and feed it regularly. Send a weekly or bi-weekly email with useful content (not marketing).
- Be intentional with social media. Think Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn; post frequently and strategically. Encourage your tribe to comment and share to help boost your posts’ SEO (Search Engine Optimization), to make you more easily found on the internet by those searching your topic.
- Find out about conferences where you can exhibit and speak. For a small extra fee when you book an exhibit table, you can usually register to give a workshop or two and get in front of an audience. Give away books; it will make your booth a magnet!
- Contact bloggers and book reviewers in fields associated with your book. Read their guidelines on what and how to submit, and send them your book for reviews and give-aways.
- Be an active networker. This means: .
- Carry business cards at all times with your book and website on them (and give them out freely!)
- Include social media links on your email signature, as well as links to your book website.
- Be constantly thinking: whom do I know that might be interested in this book? e.g., reconnect with your university/high school alumni, etc.
- Let people know you speak. Don’t be shy! Make yourself available for speaking engagements to anyone you know who has an audience or access to an audience. These generate opportunities to sell your book, just as having a book generates opportunities to speak.
Bottom line: put yourself out there. Don’t be shy. Get the word out to as many people as you can and ask them to pass the word to their friends and colleagues, too. You never know: your best friend’s aunt’s mother-in-law’s next-door neighbor might be the president of an organization that needs hundreds or even thousands of YOUR book. That’s the power of networking!
Arlyn Lawrence is an author and editor, and the founder and president of Inspira. She loves to see great books with important missions and messages find their way into the world and impact the lives they touch.