KCG Recommends

Authors Note (Josh Keegan)

Every day I take inspiration from women in business, many of whom I watch in wonder as they do awesome things to forge ahead in industry. Many change industry, more frequently for the better, or excel in a often crowded market.  Many hope to inspire others to take control of their lives whilst forging altogether new fields.  

I have the privilege of knowing Dorie Clark for a number of years now and she continues to forge het own path, frequently encouraging others to do the same. She has changed the life of many right around the world (mine included) and I am proud to have her in my contact list as a powerful woman in business. Recently, I asked Dorie to write a bit about herself and her journey in order to inspire others.  I'm proud to say, in this final post for 2016, she has inspired me all over again and no matter your situation or circumstance, I hope her words (and lots of hard work) will change your life too.

A bit about Dorie Clark

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant, professional speaker, and frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, TIME, Entrepreneur, and the World Economic Forum blog. Recognized as a “branding expert” by the Associated Press, Fortune, and Inc. magazine, she is the author of Reinventing You (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013), which has been translated into Russian, Chinese, Arabic, French, Polish, and Thai. Her most recent book, Stand Out, was named the #1 Leadership Book of 2015 by Inc. magazine and was a Washington Post bestseller.

The following essay is adapted from Dorie Clark’s book Stand Out.

For years, I’d wanted to publish a book: it was both a childhood dream and a branding tool that I knew could help my marketing consulting business. I wrote three different book proposals (I was convinced one of them would work), secured an agent, and waited for a deal to pop. Despite nibbles of interest, including a lengthy back-and-forth with one publisher, they all eventually said no: I simply wasn’t famous enough.

Of course, they didn’t say it quite like that. But in the wake of the 2008 economic crash and a resulting purge in the publishing industry, editors had gotten very conservative when it came to first-time authors. I had always imagined that I could write a high-quality book that would, in turn, bring me recognition. What my repeated rejections taught me was that you first have to create your own recognition—the publishing world’s preferred term is “platform”—that virtually assures you can sell ten thousand or more copies of your book, mitigating almost all their risk. If you can find a way to come to publishers with an audience already in hand, they’d love to work with you.

It seemed the book would have to wait. Instead, I embarked on a “platform building” campaign. The core of my own strategy was blogging—a direct way to share ideas and build a community around them.

I started with my “warm leads”—friends who already blogged for prominent publications. I had to persevere for months, asking different people if they’d be willing to introduce me, and patiently but persistently following up. Eventually my friend Michael successfully connected me with his editor at the Huffington Post. That was a good start, but HuffPo is better known for its political coverage than its business writing, so I wanted to try to find another outlet to complete my “portfolio.” I had numerous friends let me use their names with their editors at various business magazines, or who even introduced me directly—to no avail. Occasionally, I’d get a half-hearted response from the publication’s Web editor, asking for a list of pitches, which I’d spend hours crafting overnight . . . only to receive no response for months, if ever. I kept persisting, sure that eventually I’d find someone who was open-minded enough to realize that having a former journalist write for them—for free—wouldn’t be so bad.

Fast forward more than a year. I wanted to buy a new bike, but decided I should sell my old one first. I advertised it on Craigslist and sold it to a woman who—quite rightly—had Googled me to make sure I was legitimate. “I see you’re a business consultant,” she told me, as I was handing over the goods. “You know, I work at Harvard Business Review.” Bingo! As we completed the transaction, I casually asked, “How does someone get started blogging there?”

I had to follow up several times, but she eventually introduced me to one of the editors. Thanks to the stream of pitches I’d been developing (which had been ignored by the other publications), I had plenty of ideas and a few sample posts. The second piece they ran – about reinventing your personal brand - became popular, and they asked if I’d like to adapt it to a full-length article in the Harvard Business Review magazine. Shortly after it ran, I sold the concept to HBR as a book proposal, and it became my first book, Reinventing You. Selling my bike to the right person was pure luck – but I’d been working for years to be prepared.

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and Stand Out. You can download her free 42-page Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook

Contact Dorie on Facebook, @DorieClark or via her website: dorieclark.com