Outreach, Part I: The Introduction
This series is rooted in the one question I’ve been asked more than any other—Should I hire a publicist?—and my frustration with the many articles I’ve read about how to do outreach campaigns. The articles tend to offer up examples of people with household names, who can rely on monster followings that most people don’t have, to share their new projects—or they are based on general suggestions, without any specific examples.
The goal for this series is to share specific examples of what has/hasn’t worked for different individuals, via what they’ve done on their own and what they’ve accomplished through working with publicists—and to pull out the key pieces for readers in a way that they can use the information in the future.
The focus is on four individuals. The first two are writers at different points in their careers, who came to writing via two different paths. Because the blog is read by a wide variety of different people, I’ve chosen two others outside of writing, too. The third individual is a music industry tour manager who realized her dream job early in her career, and then headed back to her roots to revive a long-time passion, and share it with others. The fourth individual is an entrepreneur who spent decades succeeding within one career, and then a second, and then put both aside to launch that job that had never been more than a dream.
This week’s post will serve as an introduction and then we’ll dive into the outreach side in the coming weeks. I’ll weigh in on what the different individuals are doing, share elements of Steve Pressfield’s outreach, and work toward bringing together the strategies and tactics that rise to the top across the board, as well as those that are specific to certain individuals and industries, but which can be tweaked for outside use.
Jeremy and I met via Twitter. I can’t remember the content of his first tweet, but I know it was related to Steve Pressfield, whose Twitter account I manage. In the end, the point is that we stayed in touch. He took an interest in my work and gradually started sharing his work, to the point that I found myself sitting with my son, reading him one of Jeremy’s first books.
We’ve gotten to know each other through a comfortable back and forth of e-mails, Facebook and Twitter shares, and then there’s the phone—and it’s been a joy.
Saying he’s friendly and nice isn’t enough, though.
From where I stand, he’s one of the individuals who writes—and doesn’t just talk about wanting to be a full-time writer. He’s putting in the time, and not waiting for others to do it for him. As Steve would say, he’s planting his ass in the seat, and doing the work.
Jeremy entered college with an eye on becoming an FBI agent. On the road to graduation he took a turn, switched majors, and earned a degree in Creative Writing instead.
The close-up presents an image of Change introducing Writing mid-stream. Go at the same image via a different lens and you’ll see a wider view, including Jeremy’s early interest in Writing as something he enjoyed, but which he didn’t consider as a career. Change entered the picture when he learned enough about law enforcement to realize that the romanticized version he’d “grown to love in books and movies” wasn’t the reality.
Scholastic published his first books, for the series Crime Files. “I knew an editor at Scholastic who was working on a project that required an unknown author, and I earned the contract from a pool of applicants. Until that point I had submitted some short stories but had never completed a novel.”
His 2011 book Suckerpunch: Round One in the Woodshed Wallace Series was published by the indy Medallion Press, and its sequel Hook and Shoot: Round Two in the Woodshed Wallace Series hits November 2012.
While his agent submitted his next book Find > Fix > Finish, to publishers, Jeremy researched self-publishing. He had already acquired the rights to the CRIME FILES series and self-published them on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.
“I asked my agent to give the editors a month to review Find > Fix > Finish—after that, if we had no significant offers, I would self-publish. She said editors don’t like that, but I didn’t really care at that point.”
Jeremy was over with romanticizing publishing as he had law enforcement before it.
“Even the term ‘book deal’ was coveted and spoken of like it was draft day for an NFL prospect,” said Jeremy. “When I get the book deal, I’ll be able to quit my day job and write full time.”
When the deal didn’t materialize for Find > Fix > Finish, he self-published it on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. “I then made it exclusive on Amazon so I could take advantage of their KDP Select program, which allows for free giveaways and allegedly can boost promotion on the website.”
He finished the murder mystery Show No Teeth as well, and is halfway through a novelette.
Jeremy has one foot in traditional publishing and the other in self-publishing. While there are similarities related to the outreach for both, there are some differences, too. Moving forward, we’ll discuss both directions, the types of outreach Jeremy has done, and what’s worked/not worked. For now, you can catch Jeremy via his blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.
I was introduced to Josh through Jenny McCoy. Jenny and I connected via Twitter and she wanted to write a piece for the blog The World’s Strongest Librarian. The post went up, I dug around the blog and read about its creator, Josh. That was March of 2010. I met more bloggers and was introduced to more sites in the years that followed, but I kept finding myself going back to Josh’s site. It was a bit before we made a direct connect, but by that point, I knew enough about him to know he was doing something extraordinary. And when I asked him to help me pull together his background for this introduction, he challenged me to rethink the paths toward writing.
Most of the writers I speak with are either 1) established, full-time writers, looking for a change or 2) individuals who are headed toward their life-long dreams of becoming full-time writers, while working other jobs. It didn’t occur to me that a writing career could come via a different route. When I asked Josh about becoming a full-time writer, he replied:
I like my job a lot. If the coming publicity leads to more opportunities to speak and/or write, we’ll see where my conviction really lies. I want to be useful. If I think I can be more useful speaking and writing, I’ll do that.
“Useful” isn’t the reason I’ve ever heard anyone state for writing. Knowing a little more about Josh, it makes sense. Josh has that “Mojo” Steve Pressfield wrote about in his Writing Wednesday post this past week.
Mojo is a force field of positive attraction produced by sweat, intention, dedication and love. It’s a groove, a rhythm. It’s “flow.” It’s “the Zone.”
Mojo builds up over time. It feeds upon itself. The more Mojo we have, the more we can generate.
Josh has Mojo.
What’s the backstory on the header for Josh’s blog? He’s a librarian based out of Salt Lake City and a performing strongman. Even though Josh suggested the image of “the circus guy in the leopard skin, only wearing jeans” I had to go back for more on this one.
I can tear phonebooks and decks of playing cards in half. I pull horseshoes open and twist them into heart shapes. I pull chains apart. I bend railroad spikes. It probably is what you’re picturing, just without the leopard skin.
Like Jeremy, he grew up loving books and writing, but didn’t consider it for a career.
I started the blog World’s Strongest Librarian a few years ago as a way to keep track of my workouts without losing my training notebooks. I never planned on anyone reading it.
Two months into the blog, Seth Godin emailed him:
You should be doing a book, I’m sending this to my agent.
Within 48 hours he had an agent and the start of a book proposal. “The idea of the book hadn’t been in my head, so I was woefully unprepared for the enormity of the task,” said Josh. “Still, we got an offer quickly. I turned it down because that publisher had ideas for a book that I really didn’t want to write. Besides, with good fortune falling into my lap, I knew the next offer would come soon.” Two years passed as he worked on the proposal and tapped into the book he was meant to write.
In October of 2011 Gotham Books bought The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Strength, Faith, and the Power of Family.
The title of the book offers a view behind Josh’s “useful” comment.
While other writers, artists, and whatsit creators I know are often focused on what they want to create, Josh focused upon himself.
What you might call my dream career was simply having a normal life. I wanted a job, any job. I wanted hope and happiness. I wanted to have a family.
I wanted to go to school, I wanted to work, I knew I could do whatever I wanted, if I could just get over the socially unacceptable nature of Tourette Syndrome. One day, out of pure spite, I went into the quietest place I knew and asked for a job application. I knew that the job would either chew me up and spit me out, or I’d realize that I was going to be okay and could handle anything.
And from that intense focus came something unexpected, but something that makes a huge amount of sense when you look at the road Josh has traveled.
Josh’s book will be published May 2, 2013, which means he and his in-house publicist are starting to talk about what needs to be done, when and how. We’ll follow Josh as he moves forward with the outreach for his book. For now, you can catch Josh via his blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed.
I’ve known Carolyn since college, when we met through Asabiyah, a women’s organization on campus. From day one, she talked about being a tour manager, living on the road, traveling the world, and working within the music industry.
Well, she did it—and she did it early. While the rest of us were trying to sort out our after-graduation lives, she nailed a gig with a corporate sponsor and hit the road. There were more corporate sponsorship tour positions, quite a few awards shows, and then—finally—the transition to working with different musicians, on their teams. Today, she’s Tour Manager for an icon in the music industry.
While she loves her job—and will tell you she feels like the luckiest person in the world—that job came without something she’s always thrived upon—a strong sense of community. While a tight-knit community exists on the road, when the tours end, those involved go in different directions until the next tour or project. Carolyn wanted something at home.
Enter Thistle Farms and re-enter that passion we shared in college, of helping others.
After volunteering a few times, she was asked to help the director of development and PR. Carolyn had a PR degree she’d never used, and had been blogging on her own for a while, so she set up a blog for the organization, as well as a Facebook page, and is now managing its Twitter feed, too. I remember speaking with her when the organization launched its book Find Your Way Home: Words from the Street, Wisdom from the Heart, and she set out to launch a blog tour. I thought about how I wished everyone could dive in and figure out what needed to be done—and how to do it—right away. AND, I thought about how she’d returned to that other thing that meant so much to her when we met in college—giving back, helping to create the changes so many others need in their lives.
With Carolyn, we’re going to look at outreach in terms of doing it for others or for an organization. While a number of readers of this blog are working on their own projects, my gut is that there are just as many working with others, perhaps a few are outreach coordinators themselves. For now, you can catch up with Carolyn and Thistle Farms via the Thistle Farms Twitter feed, Facebook page, and blog, and through Carolyn’s personal blog.
Patrick Van Horne
Patrick Van Horne is a Marine Corps Veteran and owner of Active Analysis Consulting.
I was introduced to Patrick a few weeks back. Steve met Patrick in 2011, during a visit to Camp Pendleton, and they’ve stayed in touch since.
At the time, Patrick was an instructor for the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program. “We used to get LAPD officers who were reserve Marines in the course,” said Patrick. “They saw the benefit of it and asked why police officers didn’t receive the same training, as it applied to their work in gang-controlled areas in particular.” While the course is taught at Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune, the number of individuals attending it is limited.
“We’d have a 20-year-old kid come back, teary-eyed, thanking us for what he learned, and then wonder why every police officer, Marine, security guard, and so on didn’t receive the same training,” said Patrick.
He left active duty in March 2012 and decided to teach the course to the many others who could benefit from it. “People should have the ability to take charge of their safety,” said Patrick, “to look at a crowd of people and know when they are safe.” While people living in the United States aren’t facing the threats of Marines and soldiers serving in Afghanistan or any other conflict-region, there are threats that present themselves Stateside. “If we can teach people to notice when threats are present, we can help them lead lives that help their families, their friends, and their communities.”
Patrick is moving through his first year as a business owner. His work continues to connect him with the military community, within which he learned the skills he has today. With Patrick, we’ll look at outreach for individual businesses, how it differs from outreach for individuals, and where the similarities exist. The military has inspired many of the outreach tactics I’ve used within my own work, and we’ll discuss those with Patrick as well.