Hanneke Antonelli: “Being a committed individual ”

While writing the book, I realized that I couldn’t wait for the book to be finished — the strategies and tools I share were needed in real-time as the pandemic was unfolding, and so The Up Level Program was born, my companion course to the book that further solidifies and builds on the principles of the book. […]

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While writing the book, I realized that I couldn’t wait for the book to be finished — the strategies and tools I share were needed in real-time as the pandemic was unfolding, and so The Up Level Program was born, my companion course to the book that further solidifies and builds on the principles of the book. And because people knew about the book, I had no problem filling that beta-round of the course in a jiffy, effectively increasing my offerings and revenue streams.

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 Hanneke Antonello.

Born in South Africa, Hanneke Antonelli is an author and award-winning certified life coach with 16 years of experience growing businesses in various industries. Now based in Boston, MA, Hanneke draws on her business degree, Wall Street sales experience, and her decade as an entrepreneur to help business owners upgrade their leadership skills. With her help, they are able to focus on the path to sustainable growth that will reap higher profits and more freedom.

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?

When I was in my twenties, I had a severe episode of depression that landed me in a psychiatric ward in South Africa. While in the hospital, I vowed that I would do whatever I could to get better. A few years later, I was living in London and discovered the power of coaching. The tools and strategies I learned while working with my life coach helped me do a complete 180 of my life. I went from being an anxious and unhappy individual in a toxic relationship and working in an industry ripe with sexual harassment and addiction to a grounded individual in a nurturing relationship, running an award-winning business. I’m not dramatic when I say that coaching saved my life. And that’s what inspired me to become a coach. I specifically decided to focus on helping other entrepreneurs as it’s an industry where we often see individuals struggle with mental health issues in silence. I believe that a huge part of the problem is due to unattainable messages, like “I did it this way, now I’ll show you how to do it too,” that get sent to these individuals. That false mainstream idea leads to business owners beating themselves up, feelings of shame, and burnout. I’m here to change that narrative and provide experiences and opportunities for entrepreneurs to take back control, tap into the parts of them that make them geniuses, and help them scale sustainable businesses with increased profits and freedom.

Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?

It really would have been that same experience I just mentioned! That first experience with a life coach is what introduced me to life coaching as a profession and as a way to change lives. It inspired me to become a coach and create the business I have today.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?

I’m currently in the kitchen cooking up a connection experience for established entrepreneurs who are craving a way to build meaningful and deep connections with other high-level business owners. And I’m also tinkering with my Next-Level Business Retreat to provide an experience that will leave attendees refreshed, rejuvenated with lots of clarity, confidence, and an action plan for success. Small business owners (like so many others) experienced extreme challenges recently — my next retreat will be a chance for them to ground down and unwind in a structured way to help them get back to running their business marathon.

As for new writing projects — nothing is in the works or on paper yet, but I’d be lying if I said an idea for another book hasn’t been percolating..

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 pleasure and absolutely — My intention when I set out to write The Up Level Project was to bring a business and leadership book to the market that was real, honest, and went way beyond dry, boring business strategies and facts.

To accomplish this, I knew I’d have to share some vulnerable stories of my life, personal experiences that many friends and family didn’t even know happened. I kick the book off with perhaps the most dramatic experience of my life. As a result, the feedback has been that the book reads more like a novel, and it keeps readers coming back to it to find out more while simultaneously picking up strategies and tools to help them increase profits and create freedom in their businesses.

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?

Allow fun — I’ll be honest and say that this is a trait that’s a WIP (a work in progress.) I have a lot of grit, and I’m a hyper-focused individual. An ex-boyfriend once told me that he’d never seen anyone with so much focus and persistence. The downside of those two qualities can quickly spiral into pressure-cooker feelings, immediately sabotaging my progress to my goals. So when I first set out to write this book, I knew that I’d have to make the journey of bringing the book to life as fun as possible. I was about to sit down and write a book in my second language; if I made it a grueling experience, I wouldn’t be able to finish it. I knew that one way to make this an enjoyable experience was to hire an editor who knew me. So I reached out to a friend of mine who’s in journalism, and he agreed. With his support and guidance, I wrote the first draft of the book in 90 days. I can honestly say I never knew writing a book could be so much fun. And yes, we’re still friends; I’d even go so far as to say that we’re better friends now.

Be open to feedback and don’t take it personally — as I mentioned already, I wanted to bring a business and leadership book to life that people would want to read and go back to. My editor kept me true to my intention, and as a result, he pushed back on me quite often. And I’m so grateful he did. By leaning into the trait of receiving feedback and not taking it personally, I could use my editor’s comments to uplevel the quality of the content in the book. One example of where this happened was the “Make This Your Mantra” section included at the end of every chapter. Originally, I was only going to include quotes and passages to give a summary of the chapter. My editor pushed back and said that this felt redundant, so we came up with mantras that still give a brief synopsis. But the mantras take it a step further for the reader, who gets to actualize the takeaways from the chapter and integrate them.

Being a committed individual — when I commit to something, I go all in. I’ve made many changes that others perceive as monumental in my life, like moving countries twice, starting from scratch in multiple cities in the world, building two award-winning businesses, and overcoming depression, to name a few. And when I trace back what the ignition point for all that change was, it always comes back to committing wholeheartedly to making it happen. And yes — I share all about the level of commitment and how to get to that type of commitment to make magic happen in The Up Level Project!

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?

Yes — understanding where your book will fit into your brand and how it will elevate it is so important. Originally when I started, I wanted to get out there and be on more stages. However, I also knew that a lot of conventions and conferences don’t necessarily pay their speakers. I often quote the movie Jerry Maguire’s “show me the money” to clients, and in this case, my book would be a way to get paid to speak. It would also allow readers to remember me and hire me down the line or send referrals my way.

While writing the book, I realized that I couldn’t wait for the book to be finished — the strategies and tools I share were needed in real-time as the pandemic was unfolding, and so The Up Level Program was born, my companion course to the book that further solidifies and builds on the principles of the book. And because people knew about the book, I had no problem filling that beta-round of the course in a jiffy, effectively increasing my offerings and revenue streams.

While preparing for the book’s launch, I was also able to connect with my existing network on a deeper level by sharing advance copies with those folks. They then shared my book with their communities which have brought in new connections and opportunities that weren’t previously possible.

The book also helped quicken my lead time with prospects. Clients now have the opportunity to get to know, like, and trust me while reading my book vs. coming in cold on a sales call. And because I share vulnerable stories while showcasing my expertise, you’ll immediately know if I’m the person to help you grow your business or not.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming an author and promoting a book? Can you explain to other leaders why they should invest resources and energy into this? Can you share a few examples of how writing a book in particular and thought leadership, in general, can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?

The biggest and immediate benefit of writing a book is, of course, establishing credibility.

Being an author and having a book to promote is a great asset for your brand. But before you go ahead and make this investment, be sure that you know exactly where your book is going to fit into your brand (refer back to what I mentioned for my business in the previous question.) I’ve spent almost 20,000 dollars(and counting) on my book to date — this includes production, marketing, and PR costs. I’m comfortable with my investment because I’ve got a pipeline of products that align with the book that I can offer to those who want to expand on the principles I share in the book and go deeper into them. I also know that if the book only ever results in signing just one private client, it will give an immediate ROI.

But back to why you should invest your energy and resources into writing a book: Having a book gives you a lead into opportunities that you will otherwise be overlooked for, and it gives you a great opportunity to pitch yourself and your ideas to more outlets, which will raise awareness and give you a lot of new exposure. And as I mentioned earlier — it gives you a product that someone can buy on the spot. And of course, the long-term benefits of that is that whoever buys your book after they hear you on a podcast or at a conference will remember you more and either refer people to your work, send opportunities your way, and/or hire you/buy your program/other products you offer.

A book also gives you the opportunities to organize and structure your work, and, much like my Up Level Program, you can take that framework and turn it into a workshop, a program, or something else that can allow you to create more revenue streams.

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 a story about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?

Not going to lie — writing the book was way easier than the promotion piece, but that’s partly because the book’s promotion came with a steep learning curve. And it turns out that the success of a book launch relies heavily on your existing network. So, if you’re planning to write, or in the process of writing, a book — deepen your connection with your existing network and expand it now. I only learned this 6 months before the book launch when I hired my book marketing agency. I’m lucky that I already have a pretty extensive network that I’ve kept in touch with and nurtured, but if I didn’t have this, it would definitely have stunted my efforts.

Although there are plenty of pieces of the book promotion that can be outsourced, the most important piece is called “network mobilization” — which my friends and I joked sounded like you’re going to take over a nation or something. Still, anyhow this part can’t be outsourced. You’ll have to do a lot of personal outreach to everyone you know.

I wasn’t a rookie to launching. In my previous fitness business, I produced DVDs and learned the hard way that promotion is everything, and you can’t do it all yourself. The final round of fitness videos I produced 5-ish years ago (which were streaming online before streaming was all the rage.) has produced less than 500 dollars in revenue. And it’s all because I did EVERYTHING from producing, cover design, and promoting myself. The result: I didn’t have the energy or the capacity to do it all well. I also didn’t know everything I know about marketing now, and so my marketing efforts weren’t nearly enough to drive sales. Simply put — I wasn’t spending time on the stuff that would “Show me the money!”

With this knowledge, I went all-in on the promotion of The Up Level Project. I hired a PR firm and a book marketing team. I also enrolled friends and others who wanted to help me promote the book into a launch team. And they’re all helping me spread the word about The Up Level Project.

Bottom line: When it comes to having a successful launch — it takes a village.

Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own, and when would you recommend engaging a book publicist or marketing expert?

If you have the budget — please do yourself a favor and hire experts to help you. Or get creative on how you can get access to a bigger budget. You’re most likely not going to write a book for a while after this one, so DIY-ing it all is a massive waste of your precious energy. Focus on what you’re good at already and invest time in cultivating a network that can help you promote the book instead.

My guess is that you or your team are already doing marketing for your business, so you can continue to handle the social media and newsletter side of things. Allow the book marketing people and PR people to go beyond what you and your team have time for.

For instance, my PR agency found this opportunity for me. If I had to do it myself, I probably wouldn’t have found it, or it would have taken me so much time to find it that by the time I had to sit down and write all this out, I’d have been frustrated and drained, and wouldn’t have been able to do what I’m good at: writing and delivering content that has an impact.

The only thing about the book launching process that can’t be outsourced is getting your network to help you promote the book. Focus on that, outsource the rest, and keep yourself ready to deliver quality interviews and make appearances that will wow your audience.

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.

1 — It’s all about your network.

Invest in your relationships and network, put together a launch team, or hire a marketing agency with a book launch team at their fingertips. I chose to ask people in my network to become part of my launch team. They all got an advance copy. I also ran a live book club to make it more fun and engaging, and now they’re ready and eager to leave reviews and tell their networks about The Up Level Project.

2 — People are eager to help and support you.

This builds on my point above, but it’s so important and very often overlooked. There are people in your network that can’t wait to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask them. Be specific and keep your request as simple as possible. One of my friends knows a lot of celebrities and influential people and is also an author. I asked my friend if they’d be willing to help me get the word out about my book, and they were excited to include me in their LinkedIn newsletter of 4500 people. Other friends made me feel special and excited about my book by sending me videos almost every night of them settling in with a glass of wine or by the fire pit to read my book. This simple gesture kept me showing up and kept me motivated to keep looking for other opportunities to get the word out about the book.

3 — Hire PR experts that can help you promote the book beyond your network and reach.

As I mentioned, I learned this the hard way in my previous business. Draining your energy on marketing and PR if that’s not in your wheelhouse will lead to you showing up to interviews and opportunities with meh energy that won’t sell your book. True story: I burnt down my first business just a few months after launching my final DVD series because I was kaput from doing it all. You wrote your book to inspire and have an impact — now stay in your essence and in the energy of your purpose, and let others support you with their gifts and talents.

4 — Step outside your niche.

When it comes to marketing, we’re conditioned to niche down. When it comes to promoting your book, you want to think way broader than that because the whole point of the book promotion is to get as many eyeballs as possible on the book so you can raise awareness beyond your usual reach. Uncle Dave, who doesn’t even know what you do, sharing a post on his social feed about your book increases your reach to someone in Uncle Dave’s network who may just be writing for a publication in your niche market or the person who hires speakers for a conference that’s right up your alley. So when it comes to book marketing: forget about your niche and think about how far and wide you can expand your reach.

5 — Make a checklist.

You can find one for free by googling “Book launch check-list. There are so many moving parts to a book launch, and it’s important to keep track of everything. I had my virtual assistant draw up a checklist for us, and every week we tackled what needed to happen next on that list. As a result, we were super organized, hardly ever overwhelmed, and never felt like we were doing last-minute scrambles. Having the checklist made the entire experience feel more expansive and fun.

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, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Trevor Noah — I’m a fellow South African living in the U.S. I think it would be fun to reminisce about our culture, what we miss (and don’t miss) about our home country, and reflect on our time in the U.S. and being married to foreigners.

How can our readers further follow your work online?



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.

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