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Welcome to Season 2 of The Book Marketing Action Podcast with Becky Robinson, where we give you the information you can immediately implement to increase your influence and market your books more successfully. On today’s episode, Becky has a conversation with one of her favorite thought leaders, Whitney Johnson. For those of you who don’t know, Whitney was the very first client of Weaving Influence.
Book Marketing Expectations
Becky: Whitney, I met you in 2012, at a time when you were preparing for the launch of your very first book, Dare, Dream, Do. I believe we met in January and started to work together. Then your book came out in May. So I wonder if you could reflect a little bit about your expectations for online marketing, marketing your book, and what you hoped to achieve back then?
Whitney: You might have a better recollection of what my expectations were than I do. But I will do my best! I do remember having a conversation with a friend of mine, who’s an author, Julie Berry, she’s a fiction author. I remember, we were walking and I was telling her when you have this first book, it’s a little bit like having a child, you have these hopes and dreams, and your child is going to become an astronaut, or a rock star or a professional ice skater kind of thing. I think I had similar aspirations for this very first book, it’s going to be a New York Times bestseller, selling millions of copies.
She’s like, Whitney, you might want to rethink, and she wasn’t trying to be mean, what your goals are for this book, like, what do you actually want this book to do? That helped me realize, there’s a lot that I need to do here in terms of marketing this book. You’ve written the book but now the hard part starts. Now we have to figure out how to get this book out in the world, because it doesn’t help if you’ve written a book that no one reads.
One thing that I was super excited about was that you were excited about the book, you wanted to help market it, and you wanted to help bring it out into the world. Starting that process of, how do you build an online presence? At that point, I think I’d been kind of doing Twitter and I’d been doing a blog, but I didn’t really have an online presence and you helped me really think deliberately about what are we going to do to market this book and to get it out in the world.
Becky: That was so much fun, Whitney, trying out all kinds of ideas for the first time with you. The thing that I remember most about those early days was the whole idea of creating a permission-based email list and an email newsletter. We talked a little bit before we started recording about that. I think that one of the things I’ve loved the most about watching your journey over the past eight years is just seeing you find your rhythm. Of all the people that I’ve worked with, your newsletter shows up in my inbox regularly. The best thing about your newsletter is that it sounds like you.
The Importance Of Your Own Voice
Becky: I really wanted to talk about the importance of your own voice coming through and showing up. So what do you remember about that, Whitney? Or what has your journey been like as it relates to the email newsletter?
Whitney: That’s such a good question, but I think the real challenge is that when we write and we want to show up in the world, there’s this idea of, I don’t want to be “salesy” and I don’t want to be marketing, like it’s somehow a bad thing. I think what people are really saying when they say that is that they don’t want people to feel like they’re using them. It was a matter of overcoming that and getting to the point where I would say, “I have something that I feel is important that I want to share. This isn’t me selling this is me having something that I believe will be of benefit to people.”
But to your point, there’s kind of two iterations. I remember when I first started a blog, I struggled mightily to find my voice. I remember having someone read it and the way you know if it’s good is someone you don’t know actually likes it. And so I kept practicing. Then I wanted to do the newsletter. I was like, well, what do I need to do here, I don’t want to do a newsletter where I’m like mee, mee, mee, mee. I want to do something that adds value. So basically what has happened, and I’m sure you’ve seen this evolve, is every week I send out a newsletter and it’s almost always about a lesson that I’ve learned, usually it’s my most uncomfortable moment of the week. I feel like the only way that I can do that in an authentic way is if I’m talking about my own growth, development, and the experiences that I’m having as I’m trying to grow because if I’m saying, “I’m willing to be uncomfortable,” than I’m modeling for those reading the newsletter to be uncomfortable.
Becky: What I love so much about your newsletter, Whitney, is the authenticity that you bring. It really does feel like when you show up in my inbox, the conversation continues week after week, where I get a glimpse into what is going on in your life and in business. On top of that, there’s this tremendous value that you’re bringing, as you share things like your podcast, book giveaways, and all sorts of other fun tidbits.
Showing up Authentically with Value
Becky: What do you think it takes for people to be able to show up in online spaces with that value and authenticity that you bring?
- Have a point of view. I think everybody’s different, but having a point of view is number one.
- Be the guide and not the hero. I remember hearing Donald Miller say that years ago. I remember Donald Miller said that in particular, and I’ll give you the background because I think it applies here as well. Four or five years ago, I had given a speech, and it was really bad. Like, I got super bad marks. I was like, why didn’t they like it, what happened? The contents were good. And then I heard Donald Miller say this, that if you’re on stage, it is your job to be the guide. The people who are in the audience are the heroes. And it’s the same with a newsletter, podcast, and all the marketing that you do. It’s your job for the people you’re marketing to, to be the guide, so that everybody else who’s reading, listening, and ingesting it gets to be the hero. I think it’s a combination of having content that is actually valuable. And also being the guide and not the hero.
- Do not ever show up and not eat your own cooking. When I first started in this business, my mother said to me, “Whitney, there are a lot of people that are doing what you’re doing and a lot of them are fake.” She said, “do not ever show up and not eat your own cooking.” That has really stayed with me.
Becky: Wow, that is really powerful, and I love that advice from your mom.
The Most Important Metric
Becky: I remember when we launched your first book there was a quote in it about showing up is the most important metric. Tell me what that means to you. And especially what it means to you related to online presence.
Whitney: For me, showing up is being present, bringing your heart, bringing your mind, and bringing your capacity to care. I think, from an online perspective, it’s not too much information, you don’t need to share things that make you feel really vulnerable and/or private and personal. But it is a willingness to show more. To show yourself. To say, this is who I am. Again, it’s not too much information, but there’s this element of you’re sharing your actual journey in a way that people can connect to you. I think there are people in the world who can show up and convey an idealized life, and there are people who follow them. That is one path to go down. The challenge with that, and the reason I don’t want to go down that path, is that when we do that, there is an element of making other people feel less than. For me, part of showing up is showing up together. So that never at any moment does anyone that I’m interacting with feel less than. That’s why I’m really careful about what I put on Instagram. I still like to have pictures where I feel I look good. But I think there is this element of just making sure that we’re approaching people in a way we’re not trying to be more than or less than that other person. To me, that’s what showing up is.
Becky: I love what you said about showing up together, and what I’m taking away from that is showing up together is valuing others, and also viewing ourselves on an even playing field.
Whitney’s Author Journey & Expectations
Becky: One of the things that we talked about before we started the recording was your journey as an author, and you now have three books and a fourth one coming. We were talking a little bit about what you’ve experienced on your journey. Would you be willing to share a bit of that now?
Whitney: Yeah, absolutely. There’s this initial expectation of it’s gonna be big, big, big and it wasn’t big, big, big, but it was good. I wrote a good book and it was a book that I was happy about. It was a book that people read, and people responded to, and we sold enough copies. Now, most people aren’t going to sell enough books that you can make a living off of your books. But for me, as a thought leader, that wasn’t the point. The point was to put my ideas out in the world, to put this flag in the ground, to plant a flag around which I could galvanize my ideas and so people could galvanize their community.
One of the things I’ve been really happy about is that every single book has sold more than the previous book. I feel really happy about this sense of gradual, increasing contribution, and building a community. I think that while there is some element of us wanting it to be amazing and big all at once, and for some people that happens, but for most it’s gradual.
Becky: Whitney, before we wrap up our podcast, one of the things that we do on The Book Marketing Action Guide Podcast is we give people action steps that they can implement.
- Find what you’re most passionate about. Really think about the activities that you’re doing to market yourself or your content, and figure out which ones are the ones that feel the most powerful to you, and keep doing those consistently, like how Whitney chooses to keep showing up. When you do that, what you’re talking about in the world, you won’t feel like you’re selling, you’re gonna feel like you’re sharing with people something that is valuable and meaningful.
- Create additional value for the world. If you’re listening today, and you already have a book, I want you to consider if there’s a way that you can add additional value to the world, whether that be through a podcast or some other way of sharing and extending the learning in your book. What are ways to reinforce that idea that are fun and meaningful for you?
- Check out Whitney Johnson’s podcast here.
- Connect with Whitney on LinkedIn and Twitter.
- Sign up for Whitney’s Newsletter.
If you found value in today’s episode, we hope you’ll take a moment to share it with someone else who might benefit from it. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover, please email Becky Robinson here.
I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.