In September, I announced my first ever author mentoring programme. I created it to help authors clarify their online presence and create a sustainable social media plan during the times they didn’t actively have a book to promote.
It felt like a huge gamble, launching an online service like this and pushed me well outside of my comfort zone. But it’s also something I’ve always wanted to do.
I’ve had loads of ideas for courses over the years, but nothing ever felt quite right. Then our financial situation changed toward the end of the summer. Suddenly, the need to use my ‘day off’ (I work for a publishing house four days a week) became more pressing.
As it’s the first time I’d ever done a launch for myself, obviously there was a bit (/a lot!) of learning as I went. Not everything went as smoothly as I’d anticipated. For someone who loves to plan so much, I think I underestimated how much planning needed to be done. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share some of the things I learned along the way.
1. It is so much harder to market yourself than other people
I’ve always known this, of course I have. But I’ve never actually had to do it! So it was a surprisingly steep learning curve to go from promoting other people to promoting myself. I did a lot of ‘inner work’ around this, which sounds ridiculous, but was actually really helpful.
What was it that I was actually scared of? Why was I so worried about putting myself out there, particularly when what I was offering was literally part of what I do every day, and which I’m not scared to talk about in a work context? If I didn’t sell any places at all, what would that change about my self-worth? I asked a lot of tough questions of myself, which put me in a really good place when it was actually time to promote it.
2. Be flexible about your target audience
I anticipated targeting two distinct audiences: authors and marketing colleagues. But while my current and former marketing colleagues were very supportive, a couple said they weren’t comfortable paying to send authors to me while I was working for another publisher. I hadn’t anticipated this, but it did make complete sense.
So I focused my efforts back on my ideal client, the person I wanted to reach when I started to pivot the content on my website a couple of months back. Namely: authors themselves, who have so much to say, but who aren’t always sure how to translate that into interesting content that engages with readers.
3. Check all of your diaries before you plan your launch
I planned a pre-launch phase, where I told people what was coming, and that they could be the first to hear about it through my mailing list. I was so excited about getting this set up, and making sure I had plenty of time to work on it (I was on holiday at the time), that I kind of neglected to think about the actual launch itself. I just set myself a date to do it, when I was back, and scheduled a bunch of activity to go live around it.
But I didn’t check my work diary. And, er, turns out, I was in training for the entire day that day! Not a great idea. So I ended up doing some of the activity (sending out my pre-written email and replying to tweets) during the short breaks in the training. It was not ideal, and I massively messed up the email to former colleagues by sending it without a subject heading. How unprofessional. I was angry at myself about that for ages.
If I had thought about the timing a bit more, checked ALL of my diaries, I would have probably sent the email on the same day, but let myself have a bit of grace to send it out in the evening instead of while so much else was going on. If you’re doing something for the first time, feeling rushed or under pressure is really not a good way to start.
4. Get people involved before you launch
I spoke to a lot of people about the programme in the run up to the launch. I spoke to my boss about it a lot, who was incredible in allowing me to do this in the first place, and in giving me advice on my launch page and about pricing.
I spoke to some freelancer friends to sense check the pricing. It felt quite scary and high to me, but I also knew that it needed to be reasonably expensive, as it was going to involve a huge amount of work – months of time snatched wherever I could find it plus my Fridays to write the content, potentially daily involvement with the authors, and a year (at least) of follow-on support.
I spoke to colleagues and ex-colleagues about whether they thought it was a good idea. I spoke to people in various small business Facebook groups. I spoke to authors and bookstagrammers. I basically talked to as many people in the run up as I possibly could. This was primarily to actually get their advice, but also (I realised retrospectively) a great way to get them invested in my idea from an early stage.
5. Think about who can support you during your launch
The people I had been speaking to throughout the planning period then became supporters during the launch itself, which was brilliant, and so helpful in spreading the word.
Whilst the outreach I did to my current and former colleagues didn’t supply any paying work, they were brilliant about supporting me on social media. I had people saying some absolutely lovely things about me on Twitter, which make me grin from ear to ear each time it happened!
The thing I wish I had done more of was reach out to author-specific magazines, websites and social media forums. There are so many author Facebook groups, podcasts and more that I wanted to speak to, but with very limited time (and still quite nervous about putting myself out there!) I decided to focus on my existing channels.
And the result?
Well, I wanted to sell a minimum of 3 places and a maximum of 5. I ended up with 4. I am absolutely delighted with the result, and know that there is still so much more I could have done, and would do next time.
Have you ever launched an ecourse or mentoring programme? I am planning to run mine again, so would love to hear any and all tips on how you’ve made it work!
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