Partnering for Success
Listening to the Copyright Clearance Center's Beyond the Book podcast, I heard an exellent interview with Kate Gale, co-founder of Red Hen Press. Red Hen Press is a very small publishing house that has found some success through partnering with various venues in Manhattan to do a series of readings that promoted their books and their authors. This was an incredibly inspiring and insightful podcast which I recommend you listen to closely. They found their success as a small publisher through establishing some strategic partnerships, principally with cafes, bars and poetry groups.
It occurred to me that this kind of approach might work just as well for the individual author, or the promoter of any kind. Too often we think we have to do it all, when some of the energy we expend can be more productively diverted into working out how you can increase your chances of success through symbiotically ensuring the success of others.
In this piece I am thinking principally of authors, but if you are working in another field you can get your thinking cap on and imagine just what kinds of partnership might work best for you.
It’s important, too, to remember that partnering has to always be a win-win situation. You have to be willing to do as much – or more – work than your partner, especially if it’s your idea. So below see a few ideas that this podcast has inspired, and a couple of examples from my own experience, of how promotional partnering could work in the best interests of you and your potential partner:
1) Establishing a place in your local community – It might seem hokey, but by having a stake in the community you can be seen as “the local writer.” This is actually a really helpful position, especially when a new book comes out. You establish a really loyal core of fans, and nobody is more supportive than local media. At the very least you should establish close relationships with the local newspapers and be sending them stories – not just about you, but about other people and events that you know they would be interested in. Your nearest local library is also a tremendous source of support and, when the time comes, publicity. I have also had really good results from attaching myself to the efforts of my local plae of worship, and from blogging about interesting local businesses. Invite famous friends to local events and organise some media. Work up a story about your favourite local restaurant, or the cafe where you do your writing, and send out a press release. Do some helpful stuff for your local writing group and make a big fuss of it. These are all sources of mutually beneficial media coverage and events.
2) You want the publishing world to know who you are and to know that you are doing things – I am the kind of person who will turn up to the opening of an envelope. I don’t really think that any public event is below me, not at this stage in my career. Sure, sometimes it can seem a chore, but I see my attendance at related events and my appearance at quite low-key talks and events as part of the cost of my promotion. And, no matter what, it always looks impressive on paper. So when a publisher reads on your blog that you gave a stunningly successful seminar to the Southern Suburbs Dog Grooming Guild, they don’t know that three people turned up and two of them were family members. It just looks like you are a busy and self-promoting author who is getting out there into the public eye. And guess what – you are. Besides, I have had several money-making or high-prestige engagements booked because of my appearance at something that someone else might have deemed a hopeless waste of time. You never know who will be there.
3) Associating with a non-profit – If you have a hobby or a passionate interest, then get active and get involved and join any relevant associations. Get on the board, and get contributing to their newsletters, reports and blogs. Organise events and fundraisers for them, and lend your name and skills to promoting their work.
4) Writing in schools – schools can be very keen to involve writers in their English and writing programs. Make enquiries and offer your services gratis.
5) Having a mission – For Red Hen it is promoting literacy. It can be exceedingly grand, or quite humble, but it pays to have a mission and to contribute some of your time and work to it.
6) An active program for marketing and publicising your books – Never rest. Never. Keep reading blogs and books for new ideas, listen to podcasts (so much amazing free information available on them). Try new things, make calls, and send emails. Don’t worry about rejection, and never take it personally. But it does pay to sit down and write a campaign for strategically promoting yourself and your book for the next three months. It’s amazing how high-profile opportunities will make themselves available once you get working on doing some low-profile ones. Think of yourself as a solo entrepreneur, and always remember just how much small businesses of all kinds have to spend on advertising and promotion. You are no different. How much are you investing in yourself and your career? Again, this can work in tandem with other creatives. I have found that amazing things have come my way when I spent some time promoting the work of others and helping them be successful. Establish promotional partnerships with friends and undertake to promote one another.