Do you ever wonder how some people get their message about military families out to the world and some don't? I have been writing about military families since 1996 and this has always been a puzzle for me.
Recently our military community has seen a lot of outrage about a book that was published for military kids and was featured on a USO tour. So much emotion was out there on all sides -- anger, fear, intimidation, pride, sentimentality, disgust, discouragement, despair.
As an Air Force child, a Navy wife, an Army mom, and a member of the community that wants to help military families, I understand all of those emotions.
As a writer, I also understand the puzzlement and distrust that brewed under the outrage. How did a civilian mom and daughter manage to get their book to a position where they were invited to tour with the USO when so many other authors with a military background did not?
How did this message stand out?For all of us (myself included) who would like to get our own message out about military families, this is an interesting situation. How did this book stand out from the more than 17,000 books about military kids listed on Amazon alone?
After all, this book wasn’t the literary equivalent of Where the Wild Things Are. It wasn’t written by a celebrity. It wasn’t part of a movement.
While many of the people involved seemed to think that the authors were in it for the money, I work in this field. There isn't much money in publishing a book for such a small audience. Ask any publisher or miltiary author how hard it is to break even in the publishing business these days.
It isn’t about the money.The difference between this book and some of the others was that this one was in the hands of people who understood how the world works now.
This isn't about how the world is one giant conspiracy waiting to happen. This isn't about the money. Thinking that way is just an excuse not to do the work of this world.
This is about getting your idea out there. This is about everyone who wants to be an influencer and everyone who wants to do something for our men and women in uniform and their families.
This is the age of push marketing.We all have to realize that this is the age of push marketing. We can't expect the world to come looking for the opinions of "experts." The world isn't necessarily weighing merit. No one has time to comb through 17,000 books to find the best one.
Instead, this is a world that requires you to put your ideas together and push them out into the market to compete with all the other ideas out there.
Push your ideas into the world.That is what the authors of this book did. They asked for meetings. They attended events. I met one of them while attending a Capitol Hill reception for United Through Reading. It wasn’t private. Anyone could have attended it to support the amazing good that United Through Reading does directly for individual kids and their service member parents.
At that one event, I can think of three other authors of military books in attendance. They were working the crowd, too. Talking about their books. Becoming known. Getting their ideas in the world. One of them got the Exchange to pick up her book last year. Good on her.
Here is how you get your ideas out there:From where I stand, this is the answer. Whatever your pet project is, you need to gather your ideas and write them down.
Try to put together the kind of blog post that goes viral. Or create or contribute to a blog with millions of members. That matters to publishers.
If you decide to write a book about your topic, then do it. Don't do it tomorrow or wait until next year. Do it now because all of your competition is not procrastinating. They are struggling at their keyboards right now.
When you have developed your best idea, work on getting an agent and then a big publisher. Few people get an advance these days, but still, try to get a big publisher. In your proposal, you will have to list the ways you plan to get publicity for your book. Be ready for that.
If you can't find a publisher, commit to self-publishing and finance the publication of this book you believe in so much. Read one of those 'how to publicize your book' blogs and look for an idea you can implement. Getting input from all the military nonprofits was a good idea. It won't work now that the nonprofits have been burned, but think of something like that.
Then create a presentation. How are you going to get the attention of your target audience? Research live events. Attend them. Get to know the event managers. Put together a curriculum that will appeal to someone who is organizing a live event who needs to fill a requirement in your topic.
Then, if they pick you, go on the tour for the cost of your plane ticket and hotel. I can't guarantee it will be "lavish." There is little money in these nonprofit ventures.
But there is a lot of meaning. There is a lot of value in stepping up to be part of the doers who try to help military families. Sometimes networking through these projects does lead to other paying jobs or career opportunities. Most of the value, though, is found in working for this community.
Military families are worth it.Because I do believe that our service members and our military families are worth working for, worth fighting for, and, most of all, worth networking for -- no matter how much you dread it.
The field is wide open. It isn't just for a few priviledged people. Get out there and do the work that it takes to get your ideas noticed, too.