In working with writers every day, something I always think about is the commitment they are making to their craft, and how that leads to powerful transitions in their life.
To me, that is the heart of not just why we create, but why we share. It’s why I focus so much on what I call Human-Centered Marketing — that moment when your work connects in a meaningful way to someone else’s life.
This week I published my interview with author Malcolm Lemmons. This is how he described his creative shift from being a professional basketball player to becoming an author and entrepreneur:
“People asked me if I had ever thought about writing a book. It was something that never crossed my mind before. Writing was always something that came naturally to me, but being an author wasn’t something I aspired to be. But then I thought how I would be doing an injustice to other athletes who needed to hear my story, to understand what it takes. That was the beginning of my transition. Once my first book was published, that was the door that opened up other opportunities, and the beginning of me seeing myself as being more than an athlete.”
This is a powerful moment. The idea that our work can truly help others. And how can even change how we see ourselves and what we create.
As Malcolm considered shifting his career away from basketball, he describes how he struggled to find a new purpose. What gave him a clear path? Writing and storytelling.
In my latest podcast episode, we talk about that creative shift. There is so much in this episode that directly applies to the work that writers and artists face each day. You can listen here.
But of course, the work of an author doesn’t stop there. The life of a book extends far beyond the day it launches. While a lot of attention gets paid to publication, bestseller lists, and sales ranks, the truth is, you have years to connect your writing to the hearts and minds of those who will appreciate it.
Nearly two years ago I shared a book launch case study with author Beth Ricanati, MD. (You can listen to that episode of my podcast here.) At the time, she shared how she had gotten her first book deal, but then the marketing department at the publisher said: “She has no social media presence. We are killing the deal.”
Beth described that moment: “It was heartbreaking. I was so upset, I put it away for two years. That was that.”
But of course, she didn’t stop there. She pursued other ways to publish the book.
In the meantime, she focused on her social media presence, growing her Instagram to nearly 6,000 followers. When the book came out, she totally flipped how many authors view marketing. Instead of worrying about being seen as pushy in sharing her book, she mailed copies of it to friends, supporters and those in her network as “gifts.” She said she was at the post office every other day, just constantly mailing out gifted copies.
Much like Malcolm, she saw her book as a way to help and serve others.
She set up 20 events around the book launch, and made them fun and interactive. How did she get these speaking events? She started with her existing network, by reaching out to friends.
She described how this pushed her outside of her comfort zone: “The whole public speaking thing was terrifying. I had to really work on that. I was not comfortable public speaking, but now I’m more comfortable with it.”
In January of 2019, I asked her how she thinks about the book promotion four months after publication, and she said, “I think it is just getting going. I feel like it’s a snowball going down a hill, and it’s gaining momentum. It’s super exciting.
Turns out, she was right. A couple weeks ago, I recorded a second podcast episode with Beth about how she is continuing to promote her book and ensure it reaches new readers.
She had been doing more and more events around the book, but then the pandemic hit. At the time, she thought: “There goes all of my spring events, and my business just stopped. But then a week later I shifted to online events, and it just started this whole new business!”
She has been doing online events every week since April. She describes the experience this way: “[I am meeting] with people all over the country, with people I never would have thought to connect to. It’s a constantly growing community. To feel so connected right now, it’s feeding me. It’s been this upward trajectory of more and more. I have found the more I reach out and connect with people, the more people reach out and connect with me. It’s this wonderful virtuous cycle that just keeps growing.”
These events helped her understand who her readers actually are, and how many more potential readers exist than she originally thought. She said, ”I’m continuing to learn.” Learn about her audience, her own book, and even her next book. The conversations she is having with readers are leading her to what her next book will be about. What’s more, she talked about how this set her next book up for success. “I have my people, my team.”