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Thursday, January 8, 2015

A2R Marketing: The Mentor/Mentee Dynamic

We've all been the new kid at some point in our lives or careers. Being guided through the cafeteria line by an expert who then sat next to us was either a reality or a deep wish. Either way, experiencing the need for guidance made us both humble and sensitive. Humble because not having the answers made us insecure, and sensitive because we became aware that others may need our help.

Most writers have someone they can turn to for advice on their writing content, but when it comes to promoting their work, they have no one to turn to. The lack of guidance can leave a new writer feeling like they're holding their lunch tray all alone in a room filled with communities of engaged and purposeful people. They see other writers with active social media or in person events, and wonder what the secret was to getting there.

I can't speak for everyone, but I'll speak for many. The folks who have a presence in the digital world, or have fans in the physical one, had a mentor. 

men·tor  (ˈmenˌtôr,ˈmenˌtər)
someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.

A mentor who knows you and knows your work can help make sense of a dizzying array of choices. I emphasize the knows you part. A simple Google search on book promotion brought up 346,000,000 hits. There is no shortage of advice or services to help promote. They key is finding what works for you. A mentor who understands your strengths, personal comfort zones, and goals can guide you to the right strategy for effective promotion. This is true no matter what career you are in.

Several years ago, I was lucky enough to have been asked by a member of the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association in Boston to be a mentor for young women in science. The women I mentored were mostly young PhD's working in research and development. I may have known little about their scientific questions, but I knew a lot about office politics and positioning for promotion. My twenty-plus years of experience in male dominated fields of law and finance helped to shape and inform my advice to them, but the key to helping was knowing them. We met at least once per month and traded phone calls and emails frequently. By learning who was comfortable with confrontation, or who ran for the hills at the slightest furrowed brow, helped me tailor my advice. Each month, a very specific task was given. A task may have been having lunch with someone who has the job you want next. Small steps helped build success and having a mentor made the mentee accountable.

I became a good mentor because I knew the need. I never had a mentor early in my career and I really could have used one!

A mentor can be anyone you trust who has enjoyed a level of success in an area you aspire to. But don't think you have to be either a mentor or a mentee. When it comes to author to reader marketing, one size does not fit all. I'm constantly being exposed to best practices and learning tricks of the promotional arts. What may not have worked last year, might be perfect now.

To find a mentor:

  1. Look within your writer's group for someone who has done something you'd like to do. Ask how they did it and would they guide you through the process.
  2. Organizations, like HBA mentioned above, have formal mentoring programs. If not yet writing full time, find out if your "day job" industry has such a program. The insights gleaned from working closely with someone who gets to know your strengths can be applied to your writing promotion.
  3. Reach out on social media and begin a relationship with someone you admire. Most authors are approachable and will be happy to provide guidance even if not in a 'formal' mentoring relationship.

It's the dynamic of always allowing yourself to learn and adapt that makes for the most effective marketing for you.

More on A2R (Author to Reader) Marketing can be found here.