It cannot be overstated that personal networking, the opportunity for people to meet you and talk with you and assess who you are one to one is most likely the way for you to find new clients. People work with people they like and trust and it is easiest for others to establish that trust in person.
Planning to Network Effectively
The first order of business is to make a list of who might be an author or thinking of becoming an author that you know, and secondly, who do you know or where do you regularly go that would give you access to these people.
We recommend that you attend at least two networking events every month. But networking is a state of mind, not an event. Every day offers the opportunity to network. If you can learn to smile at strangers and start interesting conversations, you can succeed at networking.
We have prepared a checklist/flyer you can print and take with you or email any time you go out to network and want to show people what you do. What a Virtual Author’s Assistant Can Do For You is in a downloadable PDF form if you scroll down to the bottom of this page.
Do Your Friends and Business Associates Know What You Do?
You see your neighbor, Jack, in the driveway in the morning and give him a friendly wave as you back your car up to head out to run errands. How much do you know about Jack’s business? How much does he know about yours? You drop off your tax receipts at your bookkeeper once a month or at your tax accountant’s office once a quarter or once a year. Does he or she know what you do? Can you imagine how many people those people have as clients every year? Could you make sure they have a quantity of your business cards so it is easy to recommend you as a professional resource?
Networking as a Lifestyle
You might be anywhere, in a café or at a school meeting when you hear these words, “I’m thinking of writing a book…” or “I’m doing a book signing at the bookstore on Main Street.” As soon as is reasonable without interrupting, you will want to introduce yourself very simply to this person, hand him or her your business card, and hopefully get a card in return.
There are places where authors and aspiring authors come especially to hear and see other authors like bookstores, book events and book fairs. Many authors are also subject matter experts and speak regularly themselves.
Authors are not hard to find, so develop your simple approach with the classic elevator speech (50 words that introduce you and what you do). Make it specific enough so that the author can determine if you do what he or she needs and make it interesting enough to generate follow up questions from those listening.
Sample Elevator Speech
I help aspiring authors get successfully published and help authors sell their books by doing the tasks that they don’t have time for or don’t know how to do, like helping them prepare book proposals or virtual book tours or best seller campaigns.
Attending Professional Networking Events
While it is relatively easy to find authors and aspiring authors, you have another criterion to consider – budget. The best place to find authors and aspiring authors who may not have the time but do have the budget to do all of the author tasks may be at networking events geared to professionals. These include events intended for entrepreneurs, HR professionals, speakers, coaches, attorneys, psychologists, fitness professionals, and health professionals.
Do some research and see if you can be a guest at a local chapter meeting, especially if you have a friend you can attend with. Do a lot of listening and not a lot of talking. See if you can determine who are the most likely potential clients and make it a point to meet those people and hand them your card.
Attending Writer’s Conferences and Book Fairs
Another important source of clients is writer’s conferences and book fairs. While the focus is on writing or selling books, many attendees also need expertise on publishing or working with professionals. You do have to consider whether those in attendance will have the budget for your services. Most people who are writing as a hobby will not be good clients for you, although a few will. You can support their efforts by referring them to the free articles on your web site or answering their questions as you can, but save your time for paying clients.
If you have the opportunity, partner with others and have an exhibit space which serves both as a place for people to get your material and also as a place for people to find you and talk to you.
It is easy to spend a lot of money on collateral materials such as postcards, bookmarks and more so avoid that temptation. Business cards, a poster and maybe a flyer created from the wording on your web site should be sufficient for you to take and display.
Especially because there are so few author’s assistants, consider wearing a button or carrying a bag with the words “Author’s Assistant” or “I am an Author’s Assistant” on them. This can be a great conversation starter. If you know who might be in attendance in advance, set up meetings with potential clients to make the best use of your time.
Partnering with Other Professionals
A very productive way of attracting new author clients is to set up official or unofficial partnerships with other author’s assistants who have different specialties or partnerships with other publishing industry professionals. This works particularly well for author’s assistants who specialize. You can create a network of specialists who can meet the full range of authors’ needs. It will be important for all of the specialists to be in agreement about such things as how you will refer clients and how introductions will occur.
As with authors, many publicists, editors, cover designers and others may not realize that author’s assistants are now being professionally trained and people they can count on to help their author clients. Make sure they know about you and ask what kinds of clients they are looking for. If you refer clients to them, and do that professionally, you will increase the chance they will refer clients to you.
Consider partnering with the same professionals with joint marketing efforts. Especially if you have a success with a client by partnering, tell the story. Develop a referral list of publishing industry professionals you trust because you know they will do a good job for your clients and because they know how to partner with you.
Marketing Partnerships with Your Author Clients
Too many author’s assistants forget to use their best source of publicity – their author clients. Of course, you will only want to do this with the author’s approval, but most are delighted to help you as you have helped them.
Never forget to highlight your clients by showing their books on your web site and make sure that includes a link to where they can be purchased (usually on Amazon or the author’s own web site). If you provide a review of the author’s book on the Amazon page or contribute by commenting on the author’s blog posting or give a testimonial on the author’s Facebook page, you will probably have a grateful client for life!
Impress for Success
When someone meets you in person they make judgments about your value in many ways. Fair or not, people want to spend their money wisely and they will take their cue from you about your value. Dressing appropriately for the event and appearing as a serious businessperson increases your chances not only to get a new client, but also to have them pay you what you are worth.
Be Your Best Self
Too many people make the mistake of looking desperate at networking and other meetings and events, as if they have to make a sale there. They go right into sales mode the moment they arrive, running from person to person handing out business cards and giving their sales pitch to anyone who will listen.
The point of attending is to meet and start business relationships with potential clients, not to sign contracts on the spot, so turn off the sales pitch and instead set the goal of learning as much as you can about any authors or aspiring authors in the room. People like others who listen to them, so your best sales opportunities come from compassionate care and listening, not pitching what you do.
Learn to ask questions like, “What is your book about?” or “Your presentation was so valuable that it made me wonder if you are working on putting that information in a book.” Try to use the gauge of speaking one sentence for every three sentences of the person you want to become a client.
Your Business Card
Your most important marketing tool, other than your own voice, is your business card. A professional business card is essential in helping authors and aspiring authors remember meeting you and being able to call you, sometimes months later.
The card should include your name and contact information as well as the words “Author’s Assistant.” Preferably, the back should be blank so you can write a personal message to the recipient, such as a web site you recommend or the name of a book to read. When you hear the person you are talking to say something about a need or concern, write a resource for them on the back of your card and hand it to them. This is a much better way of handing out cards and much more likely the card will be kept. Resist the temptation to use funny graphics on your business card or other sales material. Simple is much better. Not everyone will share your sense of humor and even if they do, people tend to be more conservative when money is involved. Clients want you to be serious about helping them.
Follow Up is Everything
Even if you make a great first impression, the people you meet will get busy and may forget to call. Plan to follow up with everyone you met and connected with at any event. Make sure the follow up is service oriented and related to what the other person needs, not what you want to sell.
Email is great for initial follow up because it is less intrusive than a telephone call. Mention when you met and indicate you have looked at the recipient’s web site and are impressed with what they do. Mention areas of specialty where you can help them without insulting them. Say, “I’d be delighted to help you develop your media kit,” rather than “I noticed you don’t have much of a media kit and I can help you do a lot better.”
Authors generally care deeply about the subjects of their books, so if you have a personal connection to that topic, make sure and mention that as well.
Networking success can be a numbers game, so the more people I meet and get to know, the more likely they will refer a client to me. Although it can be hard to leave home early in the morning for a breakfast event or stay out late for an evening event, it is worth the effort. A lot of my success will be about being in the right place at the right time.
Being an author’s assistant is not about selling. It is about helping people get their books published. In many cases, the people I talk to may be too insecure to talk about their dreams to become an author and will call later when we can talk privately. I know I’m providing a valuable service in helping others make their dreams come true, so I will keep going, even when I don’t feel like it in the moment.
At every event, I will strive to get to know at least one individual and his or her goals for a lifetime, even if this person may not become a client.
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