In my work with writers, I talk a lot about the power of focusing on one person. Why? Because the best marketing in sharing your writing and books is when you truly make a human-connection with someone. It has meaning, impact, and lasts beyond a transaction of a follow, subscribe, or purchase
This is why we create. Why we share. Why we grow as writers and readers.
Because your writing truly opens up someone’s world.
Today I want to live this message. I want to tell you about one person.
In doing so, I hope to convince you of critically important things you need to do to succeed in connecting your writing to readers:
- You need colleagues.
- You need direct connection to readers.
- You need to approach your career with intention, not relying on trends.
- You need to reach out to people early and consistently if you want to truly connect your work to others.
Because people are the fabric of your career as a writer. They support your work. They keep buying and reading your books. They create word of mouth marketing.
And it takes time to create these connections.
The Most Powerful Collaboration I Have in my Creative Business Life.
Next year I celebrate the 10 year anniversary of my company, WeGrowMedia. Who is the most important person who made this happen? Well… okay, that is my wife and family.
But who is the next most important person? The one who has guided me, brainstormed with me, celebrated with me, and week by week, helped me with the parts of running a business that are super complex?
It’s Jennie Nash.
She is a book coach and runs her own company called Author Accelerator.
For the past five and a half years, she and I have had weekly mastermind calls. What is that? Well, each week we get on the phone and discuss creative and business challenges and goals. We offer advice and strategic support to each other. We split the call 50/50 and pretty much the first words when we get on the phone are: “Do you want to go first?” Then one of us spends 30-45 minutes talking about specific creative and business challenges that we are working on this week. At the end of the 30 or 45 minutes, we switch and the other person talks about their challenges. We brainstorm, share ideas, make decisions, and do strategic planning.
I have this huge folder of notes from our calls, each filled with ideas and actions that moved my creative work and my business forward:
Through this collaboration, this single person has had a profound effect on my business and creative life. It was a very powerful thing for me to sit and write this essay, and realize just how much she has helped create for me, for WeGrowMedia, and through that, my family.
It’s staggering really. The number of ideas. The number of recommendations. The strategy. The support.
I feel like there is so much to learn from the way we have structured this collaboration, and how you can leverage concepts from it in your own career as a writer or creator. Let me take you behind the scenes…
It All Started With a “No.” Then, Another “No.”
When I tell people about my collaboration with Jennie, they ask me how we met in order to determine ways they can find a “Jennie” for their own creative goals.
I spent some time this week going back through my calendar and email to see how this really started. To my surprise, the first thing I ever said to her was “No” to an idea she pitched me. The second thing I said to her was “No” to another idea she pitched me.
August 4, 2012: Jennie signed up for my email newsletter. At the time, when someone signed up I asked about their biggest creative challenge. She replied back and I then sent her a note in return. That was our first communication. Thank goodness for my newsletter!
July 5, 2013: It was nearly an entire year later before our next communication. She wrote to me pitching herself as a speaker for an online conference I was running. This is how the email started:
“Hi Dan, I’m a stealth fan of yours, and just read your newsletter about all the projects you have going on. It made me laugh, because it sounds so much like me — a thousand irons in the fire and loving it all. I was particularly intrigued by the online conference you are planning, and wanted to throw my hat in the ring as a speaker.”
This was huge. Like a lot of us, we “follow” people online quietly. But she took this action to tell me how much she appreciated my work, and then connect it to her own. She then shared two specific pitches for sessions she could run at my online conference. In doing so she said something that would be a staple of how Jennie operates:
“If these ideas are intriguing, I’d love to talk more about how I could hep make your first online conference a hit.”
In other words, she was helping immediately. She considered my goals, and what I hoped for when hearing from someone about the event. I mean, don’t we all dreams of hearing this from someone: “I can help make your creative idea a hit.”
What happened next? I turned her down.
The reason was that the event was all about connecting with readers, and I think her ideas focused more on her specialty of actually writing books.
I ended with: “But clearly – we should know each other regardless!”
And she replied back: “Now we DO know each other. Keep up all the inspiring work. It’s fun to watch it unfold.”
A few months later, she signed up for the paid portion of the conference. Then I received this email from a writer: “Hi Dan- I am glad that I discovered you (through Jennie Nash)…”
I see so many people “pitch” someone in their field, and then if they are turned down, they shy away from that person. They stop supporting their work. Which, of course, is a mistake. Jennie did the opposite. She was supporting me and the conference anyway.
November 2013: A few speakers dropped out of my conference at the last minute, and I received another email from Jennie, with her offering to jump in and fill one of their slots. She shared two brand new ideas for presentations.
What did I say to Jennie? “No” a second time.
Sometimes we can’t see opportunity staring us in the face. I was too focused on the tasks at hand, and had decided that adding more speakers at the last minute added unneeded complexity to an already overwhelming event I was running.
Her reply? Total support, and yet another supportive offer:
“Probably a smart decision. The event will be fantastic without any additional speakers. I’d like to ask you about contributing a piece (or Q&A) to Compose literary journal. I’m the features editor and I think our readers would love to hear from you.”
Luckily, this time I said “yes.” We hopped on the phone that day and it was the first time we spoke.
Connection Happens Across Channels, Not Just Online or Offline
In the months that followed, we slowly connected across different channels. We worked on the essay for Compose literary journal.
- My first Tweet mentioning her was December 27, 2013. A day later, she began following me on Twitter.
- We spoke on the phone. Then on Dec 31: I pitched her ideas for the essay and we spent January through March working on that via email.
- On January 6, 2014, we connected on LinkedIn.
What followed this Spring was lots of connection on social media. The professional connection really took hold.
It’s worth noting how this extended across many channels: email, newsletter, online conference, writing an essay, a speaking pitch, a phone call. We have only met in person one time, a really brief chat on the streets of New York City. I was rushing to make a train, so I think we only talked for a few minutes:
This is how true connection works. Across channels, and slowly over time. When authors talk about their “Facebook strategy” or their “newsletter strategy” I worry that they are missing the forest for the trees. They are judging a single specific action in a tiny period of time, and then trying to judge “return on investment.” But to engage with your readers and those who will support your work, you have to think bigger. Connect more consistently, across more channels, with different types of communication.
It was in May of 2014 that Jennie and I began talking about the challenges of running a creative business. This is what she and I speak about each week on our calls to this day, and it started here.
On July, 13 2014 our weekly Mastermind began.
Look at everything above. It took two full years for this professional collaboration to come together. It took Jennie ideating all of these ideas. It took her being generous, even when I said “No” twice. It took me taking a big risk in asking her to do the Mastermind that July. I can remember the call where I pitched it to her, and she was skeptical at first.
It also took a true collaboration to develop trust and a process of knowing how we could help each other.
Taking Your Writing Career to the Next Level
How has Jennie helped me? Immensely.
When I consider all of the areas she has offered specific assistance, it includes:
- Discerning creative ideas from business strategy, and where the two connect.
- The 101, 201, and 301 of running a business. She shares in the trenches experience that would be nearly impossible to find elsewhere.
- A laser-focus on what it means to truly help a writer. Yes, I know this from my daily work with writers, but she infused my worldview with an even deeper perspective since she is a book coach.
- How to navigate the risk of running a business, and the process to make smart decisions when your emotions may sometimes be giving confusing signals.
- In my decade of running a business, I find that people are reticent to discuss the financial aspect of how to run a business. Jennie did the opposite, talking in hard numbers whenever possible to demystify business theory from business reality.
- Jennie is one of the most creative people I have ever met. She is always sharing outside-of-the-box ideas that are totally genius.
- The importance of systems and structure to truly take an idea from “Oooh, this sounds cool” to a fully functioning business product or service. Jennie is all about taking things to the next level.
For the past 6 months or so, Jennie has been spending a lot of time on our calls talking about this event she is kicking off 2020 with. I have watched this idea grow from, “I have this crazy idea I want your take on…” to absolute reality.
It’s called The Business of Book Coaching Summit. In it, Jennie is helping writers consider ways that they can start or grow their business as a book coach. This is how she describes the value:
“We’re putting together an incredible lineup of business and coaching leaders who will show you how to run a successful, sustainable, soulful book coaching business. Join us for 5 days of in-depth classes and workshops with advice you need to see your business thrive and connect with coaches just like you.”
It’s funny, all of it aligns to the incredible advice and expertise she has given to me over the years.
It all happens January 20-24, and is entirely online. How much does this cost? In typical Jennie style, she is leading with generosity. The Summit is free.
The lineup of speakers is incredible too:
It goes without saying that I highly recommend this Summit for any writer who is intrigued with the concept of book coaching.
It’s taken me more than 2,000 words to try to express how much Jennie Nash has positively impacted my creative business. If you want her help and wisdom, I highly recommend you sign up for The Business of Book Coaching Summit.