Well, it definitely builds your credibility as a thought leader — no matter your industry. For example, my book is more about starting a business and the lessons I learned through that process.
As a part of our series about “How You Can Grow Your Business or Brand By Writing A Book”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cassandra D’Alessio.
Cassandra D’Alessio is the founder of Next Page Brand Strategies, Inc., a marketing agency dedicated to helping businesses tell authentic stories that build brand loyalty and drive customers to action. Since 2007, she has held a variety of marketing leadership roles as well as a visiting lecturer position at the University of North Carolina — Charlotte. She earned her B.A. in Creative Writing from Miami University (Ohio) and her M.A. in English Literature from the University of Louisville. Her first book, “This Won’t Be Pretty,” was published in 2020.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what motivated you to become an expert in the particular area that you are writing about?
Absolutely. I decided to write a book about my experience starting a business when I realized that there were not many great books for me to reference as a female business owner with no formal business training. Many books are written by men, and those that are written by women tend to portray a very particular alpha-female perspective. That definitely captures some women, but not all. In my experience, there are so many female entrepreneurs who fall into this career path and may not appear to be the stereotypical “boss babe.”
Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?
It would definitely be the day someone called me and said, “I’ve been reading your blogs on LinkedIn. Could you write blogs for my business?” At the time, I was truly writing those blogs to work through my own business and marketing hurdles as well improve SEO on my website. I hadn’t considered it a service to provide to clients because it seemed like such a small service (I know, shame on me). The truth is, effective writing is really hard to find, and my potential clients were literally shining a light on a pain point they had. It changed the direction of the “type” of marketing I was going to provide. I began to market my services as “content marketing” and how effective writing could support small businesses.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?
Currently, my team and I are doing a lot of work around building Instagram loyalty and developing “influencer” campaigns. I use that term in quotes because I feel it has a negative perception, but I view it as helping our clients educate and bring awareness to a particular topic. For us, our “influencer” projects are around promoting women at the top of their field and getting their name and mission in front of the right people.
Thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you please tell us a bit about your book? Can you please share a specific passage or story that illustrates the main theme of your book?
My book is a collection of stories and lessons from my first year in business. I’m the first female entrepreneur in my family, and I really wasn’t sure what I was getting into. One of the most poignant parts of my book is the conversation I had with my dad prior to me starting a business. I was on the fence about it and he was not on board, “This would be a lot easier of a decision if you had a husband to support you,” he said. It was a very “dad” comment to make, but it also put the fire in me to take this next step. To me, it seemed better to stat a business without having to worry about a family.
I made a lot of mistakes, but also learned some really important things that I couldn’t find the answers to anywhere! I realized that this was a common entrepreneurial journey — fumbling your way through the first year (or two) — and for other female entrepreneurs I met, they too shared in the same hurdles as well as a lack of support (initially) from family and friends. I felt it would be helpful for there to be a book that captures many of these ups and downs with both actionable advice on what to do — and a reminder that you’re not a alone.
You are a successful author and thought leader. Which three character traits do you feel were most instrumental to your success when launching your book? Can you please share a story or example for each?
The first is grit. You have to keep pushing through to meet deadlines to your editor while you’re usually maintaining a business, family, social life, etc. There were a lot of Saturday nights I spent hunched over my laptop, eating bad food, and not getting a shower in for the day. The stereotypical scenes you in see in movies are true.
Secondly, you need to have grace with yourself. No matter how well you know a topic, you may begin to feel like an imposter while you’re writing the content. Especially when you are working with an editor who is asking you to simplify a topic. I remember at one point thinking to myself, “People can just Google this information! How am I being helpful?” Of course, I was providing well-researched and lived experiences that Google couldn’t emulate. I had to keep reminding myself why I was writing this book and the value it would provide.
Lastly, being grateful for everyone who is a part of the journey with you. There were some people who were a part of the early stages of writing my book (an ex-boyfriend and his family), who were no longer in my life when the final book was published. Were they important to my pre-order sales and being supportive during the early stages of writing my book? They were. I know a lot of people may not want to put an ex’s name in their Acknowledgements Page of their book, but I couldn’t not include him and feel right about it. It takes a lot of cheerleading and support to even get to the stage to write a book. Being grateful reminds you why you wrote the book in the first place.
In my work, I have found that writing a book can be a great way to grow a brand. Can you share some stories or examples from your own experience about how you helped your own business or brand grow by writing a book? What was the “before and after picture?” What were things like before, and how did things change after the book?
Well, it definitely builds your credibility as a thought leader — no matter your industry. For example, my book is more about starting a business and the lessons I learned through that process. There are definitely some tips around marketing that plays into my strengths as a marketer, but it’s not the core focus of my book. I found that even though prospects would contact me to work with them for marketing, what prompted the discussion was their knowledge I had written a book. In that accomplishment alone, I provided a real-world testament to my work ethic, writing skills and tenacity to accomplish a major project.
If a friend came to you and said “I’m considering writing a book but I’m on the fence if it is worth the effort and expense” what would you answer? Can you explain how writing a book in particular, and thought leadership in general, can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?
No matter your industry, there are a lot of thought leaders in your space. However, very few of them — if any — write a book. When you have a book published, it’s literally a physical copy of your thoughts and recommendations. Since publishing, I often use pieces of my book as content for worksheets and exercises with clients. You wrote it once for good reason, share it with others and share it multiple times until it sticks. Of course, you can recommend a client/prospect buys your book (I have done this in instances where someone isn’t ready to pay for my consulting services), but you don’t even need to do that. When working with clients and they recognize a powerful or helpful tool/strategy you provided, it’s an easy conversation starter to remind them that you talk about “X” tool/strategy at length in your book.
What are the things that you wish you knew about promoting a book before you started? What did you learn the hard way? Can you share some stories about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?
Marketing is the hardest part, and I’m saying that as a professional marketer. You’ve written this great book and the last thing you want to do is talk about how you wrote a book. I would recommend getting outside help either with a PR firm, or marketing professional whose sole focus should be your book. You’ll also have multiple ways for people to buy your book (likely online through Amazon) but also hard copies may be available at certain bookstores in your area. While promoting these options, also include an option for selling books on your website. I didn’t create an online store until months later. There are many people who are going to want to make sure you receive the bulk of the commission, and you are likely going to have a few dozen copies of your book laying around.
Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own and when would you recommend engaging an expert?
Since you wrote the book, it’s probably best that you write the content that goes out in your email and social media marketing. However, when it comes to the graphic rollout of your book, social media posts, social media banners, website page, etc., definitely work with a branding/graphic design professional. You want everything to look clean and seamless.
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your own experience and success, what are the “five things an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Know your story: Why did you write your book? You will get asked that question a lot and the answer needs to resonate with someone. For me, my book was the book I wished existed when I was starting my business, so I hoped it would help someone like me when I first began my entrepreneurial journey.
- Know the tough topics: My first TV interview, I was asked if sexism still existed in the workplace. It was a live show, and I was completely caught off guard. I didn’t want to name people on live television who I had experienced sexism conversations with! Later, a PR professional told me I needed to be ready to answer the “tough” questions. I stumbled through an answer (“Not in my experience,” I responded, which was a lie). In my next interview (for a podcast), I felt comfortable sharing a story from my book on a specific incident of sexism I did experience, and how it was relevant to what I teach in my book.
- Ask for help: Know what you’re not good at. For me, it’s self-promotion and graphic design. I asked one of my teammates to help me with developing a marketing strategy and graphic design and I was shameless in asking my friends and family to help promote the book. They were more than happy to do it and it really did help with book sales. Furthermore, my graphics looked like a professional had done them (which they were!) and weren’t slapped together haphazardly by me.
- Be curious on how to “get yourself out there:” You’re going to be the face of your book and you need to make sure you are in front of people. What does that mean for your industry? Interviews? Webinars? Speaking engagements? Figure out what is the best way for you to make the most of your time while you promote your book and block out dedicated time to make that happen in your calendar. Work isn’t going to slow down; you need to make time for book promotion in your schedule.
- Be mindful of constructive (or not) criticism: People will have thoughts. Most of the comments you receive will be positive and supportive, but of course when you present something to the world, there are always going to be the haters. It’s not going hurt any less, but if you’re new with sharing your writing with the public, try your best to not get sucked into any negative comments. As one friend said to me, “You should respond to the critics with, ‘Oh yeah? Where is your book?’” Not that you necessarily want to say this out loud, but it’s a good reminder to yourself when people in the cheap seats start giving you their opinion.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
How can our readers further follow your work online?
On Facebook and Instagram: @nextpagebrand
On LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/cassandra-dalessio
Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success with your book promotion and growing your brand.