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Welcome to Season 2 of The Book Marketing Action Podcast with Becky Robinson, where we give you information that you can immediately implement to increase your influence and market your books more successfully. In this episode, we are joined by Sabrina Horn—CEO of HORN Strategy and author of Make It, Don’t Fake It: Leading with Authenticity for Real Business Success.
About Sabrina Horn
Becky: I have the privilege of talking with my friend and client, Sabrina Horn. We happen to be recording this in early spring, but this will be live on the day of her actual publication date for her book. So we’re doing this as a way of celebrating, and as a way of you hearing about her book on the very first day that it’s available on Amazon. I personally can’t wait to hold mine in my hands.
So Sabrina, could you introduce yourself and talk about your work? And tell us about your book as we start today’s conversation?
Sabrina: Sure and thank you, Becky, for having me on your podcast. I love it! It’s been an interesting journey to get to this point. Prior to writing a book, I was running a public relations company for 24 years, which I started when I was about 29 years old. After selling it, and working for the company that bought my company, I decided it was time to reassess and do some different things. I thought, “What better than to write a book?” ‒ in part about my career and the mistakes I made, and the lessons I learned, but also to help others avoid those mistakes and to help other entrepreneurs and executives run their businesses with integrity. That’s really the central message to the book, Make It, Don’t Fake It: Leading with Authenticity for Real Business Success.
Becky: I love how easily your book title rolls off your tongue, and I bet you’ve had to practice that.
Sabrina: Yeah, sometimes I mix it up and I say, fake it, don’t make it. It’s like no, no, it’s the other way around.
Why is writing a book at this point in your life and career so important to you?
Becky: That’s so fun. So Sabrina, can we dig a little deeper on why writing a book at this point in your life and career is so important to you?
Sabrina: Sure. So in addition to writing the book, I also decided to start a new consulting practice, because you can’t be idle in life. And that consulting practice is all about helping entrepreneurs navigate the early stages of their startup businesses, from how they go to market, to how they hire a leadership team, how they get venture capital, and other things in between. So the book is really in parallel with that, in terms of helping entrepreneurs and executives lead with authenticity and integrity.
Why now? I think that the mantra, “fake it ‘til you make it,” honestly, is the worst business advice I’ve ever heard. I think right now in the world that we live in, making a hard U-turn back to integrity, and dispelling the merits of that horrible mantra are absolutely paramount. So coming from the perch of public relations, most people would think a message of integrity and authenticity coming from a PR person is kind of a joke. But actually, public relations done right is all about the truth, and about authenticity and getting to the truth. So I’m conveying this message and providing this guidance and the strategies from the perch of my career of a person who had to deal with fakery all the time. And, ultimately lead with integrity and in my own business, and in my own profession.
What insights have you uncovered along your journey?
Becky: Sabrina, that is so inspiring. If we have listeners who are aspiring toward entrepreneurship and thinking about writing a book in the context of a new business, you could have no better role model than Sabrina. So another plug to go out and get Sabrina’s book today.
So now what we want to do, Sabrina, is focus a little bit on this author journey. We have authors who listen to this podcast, and I’m curious if you can share some of the insights that you’ve uncovered along the journey, what surprised you, what’s been exciting, all of those ups and downs of your author journey thus far?
Sabrina: I’m a first time author and it’s a whole new landscape for me. I really thought it was important to get as much help as possible to make the book a success, right? I mean, why write a book and watch it, if you can’t put everything behind it and make it successful, to achieve your goals with it. So part of it is really understanding the process, but having the right kind of marketing in all aspects, to get the word out to as many people as possible through the right channels at the right time. And all the while you’re trying to achieve certain kinds of interim business goals, which to me, as I understood them, were the pre-order campaign, and then the actual launch of the book when it comes out, the day that it comes out. So there’s definitely some nuances in that process. I think my biggest challenge has been managing, getting the excitement around a pre-order campaign for a book that people can’t get yet, and managing the potential fatigue that people might feel like, “Oh, there’s another post from Sabrina. There she goes again,” and having people excited about it and anticipating it.
Becky: That’s such an interesting observation, Sabrina. I think having partnered with authors along the journey, one of the things that I would encourage you with today, if you don’t mind, can I give you a bit of advice? What I’ve noticed is that authors always think that they’re posting too much, and that people are going to get tired. Then I’ve worked with some authors who will say, “My book’s been out for months. I’ve been posting for months.” And then someone will say to them, “What, you have a book? I didn’t even hear.” So I think we always overestimate people’s attention to what we post or their fatigue with what we post. Now, it makes sense to me, Sabrina, that you might feel tired, “Oh, here I go again, posting.” But I think probably our audiences are kinder, and noticing less than we actually think they are.
Sabrina: Right? Well, I mean, it’s sort of like going back to my days running a PR firm, like, public relations was 100% of what I did, but it was maybe 5% of what my client did. And same here, this book is, at this time, basically, almost 100% of what I’m doing. So that’s all I see. But in reality, everybody that’s learning by hearing and reading about my book, it’s what, 30 seconds of their day. So I get it, it’s just a balancing act.
I would add one other thing, and that is, as a business person, you spend your career trying to develop a big footprint and get big deals and bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan. And now with a book, you’re not bringing home $100,000 deals necessarily in book sales. You’re selling one copy of your book to one person, and hope that they’ll spread the word. So it makes you appreciate the value of one person so much more, and the effort that it really takes to sell one book to one person. It also makes you appreciate the value of bulk orders, which is something that I’m also working on.
How have you applied strategy to this process yourself?
Becky: Indeed, it’s definitely faster to sell 100 copies at a time than it is to sell one at a time. So I know because you have this background in PR, Sabrina, and because you’re a consultant now to entrepreneurs, that you have a strategic mind, and I’m curious about how you’ve applied strategy to this process yourself?
Sabrina: That’s an interesting question. I think the strategy comes from thinking that every move I make is an anticipation of the next move and that there’s a sequence to all this. And so if the end goal is XYZ, then you have to work your way back to today and what are the steps you have to take to serve? Build that snowball effect, that crescendo of excitement, and then the big pop the week of your launch. And you can’t just fly blind, like you’ve got to think about there is a strategy that you have to thread together and piece together.
What do you see as the most important things that you’re going to do between now and the day that your book goes live?
Becky: So, looking ahead to the future, this podcast is going to air on your launch day. And so looking back, if everyone can take that journey with us looking back, we’re recording this about two months before launch. So what do you see Sabrina as the most important things that you’re going to do between now, the day that we’re recording, and the day that this goes live?
Sabrina: Yeah, I think the most important thing is two things. For me, personally, I’ve been a little bit quiet since I left my job in 2018, to kind of take a break. I’ve been off the grid. I’ve been off the grid since basically 2018, and COVID, of course, everybody was kind of off the grid, because there was no grid. So for me, what is really important is getting back in the flow, reconnecting with people, and those individually customized emails, to 500 or 600 people to tell them what I’m doing and to get them to help me share the news about my book, are important because they’re also helping me reconnect with people. As much as I’m doing podcasts with you, and interviews with you and other people, I’m also doing Zoom calls with people, my friends, who I haven’t talked to in a couple of years or more. So that is really, really important, because that is the power of the network. Like, you can never underestimate the power of your network as an author. And, dialing that up again, is something I work on every day, I chip away at it every day. And then I think of new people that I can add to that list that I then email the following day.
The second thing that is critical between now and then is getting those bulk orders and kind of lining up opportunities to get them. I’m experiencing some challenges there because people want to read the book before they want to sign up for a bulk order. And so in those cases, I’m sending them a galley copy through a PDF and making sure that I trust them enough not to share that PDF with other people. I’m also booking myself as a speaker for events that are coming up after the launch, to sort of continue the love and the journey beyond the day of the book launch, and in doing so I’m hoping that, as a speaker, people will be interested in a bulk buy. So I think those two ends of the spectrum from feeding the network to then extracting something out of it, is my focus.
What challenges have you faced so far?
Becky: That’s really helpful. So on a not so happy note, I know, it’s always helpful to talk about the frustrations that we experienced on the journey, because it can help those who might be following behind us to know what to expect and maybe avoid some frustrations. Would you be willing, Sabrina, to share a few of the challenges that you face so far?
Sabrina: Yeah, I think, personally, it’s talking to someone and they’re like, “You know what, I’d love to buy a couple. Let’s do a bulk order.” And then they just want like two or three copies of the book, and I’m like, “Okay, how about 100? How about 200 books? You want 200 books?” So, that has been a frustration. But that’s the reality, right? One person doesn’t need 200 books, and there’s only so many people they’re going to send them to at Christmas time. So that’s been a frustration.
I think the other part of it is kind of left brain, right brain side of thinking strategically. For example, in writing an article and creating content and having it be thoughtful and targeted to the audience that it’s for CEOs or entrepreneurs, and then going back to the very tactical aspect of making sure each person has gotten their galley copy, print or PDF, or did you get the headshot? Did you get my bio? And to me, that’s a bit of busy work, but it’s all part of the process.
Becky: So balancing that strategic approach with just the reality of the tactical requirements of launching a book. That is a very helpful insight.
Becky: So Sabrina, we always wrap up the podcast with a couple of action steps that our authors can take to move forward to market their books.
- Explore the idea of bulk orders. I think the most obvious action step that I’d like to challenge our listeners with today is related to this idea of bulk buys. Sabrina, you shared with us a lot about your own approach to asking for bulk buys, and so the first action step I have is if you are an author who has a book that it would make sense for people to buy in bulk, if you’re a fiction author listening, that might not be as appropriate. But if you’re the author of a book that could be available and valuable for people to buy in bulk, make an ask. Think of one person you can email today to ask for a bulk purchase. And like Sabrina said, it can be frustrating. You want to sell 100, but most people might want to buy two or three, think about the correct quantity that that person may be able to buy and be willing to make the ask for a bulk purchase.
- Reconnect with someone. My second action step that I’m taking away, Sabrina, is this idea that you shared about the power of your network and this individual outreach that you’ve been doing to reconnect with people. So if you’re listening today, and you’re an author at any stage of the journey, whether you’re preparing for a launch or after your launch, why don’t you think of one person that you’ve been out of touch with and look for a genuine reason to reconnect and, if possible, be able to share part of your journey as an author?
So what do you think about those, Sabrina? Anything you’d add?
Sabrina: No, those are two really important recommendations and takeaways and those are two things I didn’t really fully grasp when I started this process, and right now they are the most important. So that’s right on the money.
- For anyone who’s a leader who wants to live a life of integrity, what a joy to be able to read about Sabrina’s journey and the insights that she has for leaders. Get your copy of Make It, Don’t Fake It: Leading with Authenticity for Real Business Success, here.
- If you want to make a bulk order at a discounted price, learn more here.
- Click here to learn more about Sabrina and the work she does in the world.
- Connect with Sabrina on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
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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.