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Welcome to The Book Marketing Action Podcast with Becky Robinson and Christy Kirk. In this episode, we are joined by special guest Alain Hunkins, a first-time author. During the episode, Alain shares his best advice from being a first-time author, and how he’s had to pivot his strategies because of COVID-19.
Becky: Let’s start with you introducing yourself and telling us about your work, book, and what you’re up to in the world.
Alain: Thanks so much, Becky! My name is Alain. My mom is from Brussels, Belgium, and gave me one of the most common French names on the planet. My work is in the domain of leadership. I’ve been working as a leadership consultant, trainer, speaker, and coach for about 25 years and I recently published my first book, Cracking the Leadership Code: Three Secrets to Building Strong Leaders. Probably like many of you, I was super excited to put this all together, and also a bit overwhelmed because I really didn’t know what I didn’t know. I knew there were a lot of moving parts to the process, and I’m happy to say 6 months after launch, I’m still alive! The book has come out, it’s doing well, I’ve learned a ton throughout the process, and I’m excited to share that with you.
Becky: We have had a few authors on the podcast but you may be the first, first-time author that we’ve had as a guest. Being a first-time author, you definitely bring a unique perspective that will be especially interesting to those who are listening who are preparing to launch their first book. So let’s dive-in, tell us more about what you’ve learned from the process of launching your book?
Alain: Wow, certainly. I want to start with the mindset, because I knew the book was launching in March back in September or October of last year, and I noticed I felt this incredible internal pressure of launch day coming. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself that I somehow had to do all this stuff before launch day. I had some great mentors along the way, and I think I even heard this from you, Becky, that launch day is a DAY, and one of them said that unless your last name is Kardashian or you’re J. K. Rowling, people are not going to be lining up around the block to get this on day one. Are there things you can do to make a ripple or a splash? Sure, but don’t put all this pressure on yourself because, ultimately, it isn’t about selling hundreds of thousands of copies on the first day as you’re really in this for the long term. Think of it more as a marathon and not a sprint. That really took a lot of the mental pressure off.
That being said, I think the other big thing that I’ve learned is that there are so many things you can do, and that can get overwhelming as well. I think it’s figuring out your sweet spot or strength you want to spend your time focusing on. I knew that, for example, I can speak really well, and speaking about my work is my strength. So, I created the podcast strategy. I also have a pretty big network from my professional and personal life, so I considered how could I tap into my network. What could I do to share things with people, over time? Something else I realized, and I had some mentors early on tell me, is to start growing my email list. I started doing that a few years ago, so when it came time to book launch, it wasn’t just my mom on the list. It really was looking at those things that I wanted to focus on and then really digging deep into them, because there were more things to do than hours in the day.
Becky: Just to do a quick recap, you had three areas that you focused on the most. One was mobilizing your network, another was the podcast strategy, and the third was leveraging your email list, which you started to grow a few years before you needed it. Let’s dig in a little deeper on this idea of the podcast strategy, and I want to make sure we reference how you had to pivot strategies because of COVID. You initially had a strategy of speaking at events but had to change that due to the pandemic, and podcast speaking was your way of still using your strengths in a powerful way in the world. Tell me more about that.
Alain: Absolutely, yes. The book launch date was March 24th, which was around the time in North America for a lot of people that everything shut down. So any type of live event or speaking at larger organizations was gone. Okay, so what can I do? Well, I can get on a microphone from my laptop and do podcasts. Even before that, I had started down that road. So the first thing in terms of the podcast strategy was I knew I needed to have quality content to put out. You have to have quality content or it will be hard to pitch it. Good marketing can’t cover up bad content.
The next thing was just doing a lot of querying. I spent a lot of time researching leadership podcasts and seeing if I was a fit for it. I looked at the ones I was interested in, and when it came time for querying the host, I looked for a common connection. For example, I would look at previous guests and if a previous guest was someone who endorsed my book, I would use that as an in, in terms of the subject line. I would also look at what their podcast was about and frame my queries around, “I know your mission is about this, my work is very much about that.” I made it about them, and what they’re trying to do in the world. Through October of this year, I’ve done about 120 podcast interviews. Apart of that is also following up. I’d love to say all the hosts got back to me on the first email, but they don’t. You’ve gotta follow up because people aren’t always going to get back to you the first time.
Becky: So I’m sitting here a bit amazed that you took this work all on your own. It sounds like you researched the hosts and podcasts you wanted to be on, created the list, you sent out the queries, and you did the follow-up all on your own. That sounds like it took a great deal of time. So tell me, how did you decide you were going to do that yourself rather than partnering with an agency for example?
Alain: I think part of it had to do with the fact that this all coincided around March and, frankly, most of my work was face-to-face so I was basically unemployed. So the first few months, I would joke with my family that for someone who was unemployed, I have never worked this hard in my life. I was putting in 12 hour days working on this stuff. Again, it’s a question of time. I didn’t partner with an agency because I had the time, and I figured this was something I could do. If I had my regular schedule, I probably would have subcontracted a bunch of this out to an agency or podcast service.
Becky: Got it. Do you mind me asking, what type of results did you see in terms of book sales or interest in your business through being on 120 podcasts?
Alain: Particularly in the last couple of months, I’m starting to see unsolicited podcast queries come into my mailbox instead of me reaching out to others. I’ve had a couple of people ask if I can speak to their group online and they buy a book for everyone. Another thing I’ve seen come out of this, is people say they’ve heard me on a podcast and ask if I can create a leadership training program for their company. I’ve closed on a couple of little projects, but a lot of opportunities are in the funnel right now working their way forward.
Becky: Let’s talk a little bit more about what worked well for you in launching your book.
Alain: Yeah, so we mentioned the fact about me reaching out to my network. So one of the things within my network, I thought about how I can enroll people to be book ambassadors. Whether it was my email list or my monthly newsletter, I sent out a link to my dedicated book page for people to sign up to be an ambassador, and it had all kinds of copy/paste templates so they could easily grab it and share it. People will do things if it takes them two minutes or less.
The other key piece was when people would do stuff, share it, and tag me in it, I would make sure I thanked them. It seems so obvious, but people want to be seen, thanked, and appreciated. It’s keeping the human factor, and that’s what I teach in my leadership courses as well. So it was important for me to model that kind of leadership with my team.
Becky: What advice would you give to others who are first-time authors preparing to launch their books or are on their way to bringing their first book to market?
Alain: First, there are a ton of resources out there about how to launch a book. I know this is a big piece of what you share, Becky. Read up because you aren’t inventing the wheel, someone else has gone down this path before, so look at the potential things you can do and know you don’t have to do all of them. Pick the things you know will work for you and then put the effort and time into implementing those things. Also, find a cheerleading team, find the people who are going to keep you going. If you can get people to work alongside you, even better. Keep reaching out and asking for support.
Becky: That is so powerful. As we always do, we want to wrap today’s episode with action steps authors can take. Alain, can you share those with us?
- Enroll your network as book ambassadors and give them easy copy/paste templates.
- Be Diligent – dedicate yourself to book marketing as if it were your full-time job.
- Follow-up – create a plan because it will be overwhelming in the beginning. Create a system for when you need to follow-up to help you be more consistent over time.
- Be bold about asking for help and talking about your book. Always keep your deeper purpose in mind.
- Special offer: Email Alain that you’d like to be considered for a chance to join The 30 Day Online Leadership challenge for free (make sure you mention The Book Marketing Action Guide). Don’t wait – there are only two spots available!
- Learn more about The 30 Day Online Leadership Challenge. The 30-Day Challenge starts on Monday, October 5th. Registration closes Friday, October 2nd.
- The first podcast Alain mentioned in this episode was “Decision Vision” presented by Brady Ware & Company. You can listen to that episode here.
- The second podcast mentioned was the Read To Lead podcast hosted by Jeff Brown. You can listen to that episode here.
- Learn more about Alain and download a free sample chapter of his book, Cracking the Leadership Code: Three Secrets to Building Strong Leaders, on his website here.
We hope you take advantage of the resources above and let us know if you take any action steps today. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover, please email Becky Robinson here and Christy Kirk here.