In the past week I’ve been reaching out to colleges and universities with technical writing programs as a way to get the book out there in front of educators. This has been a multi-step, multi-day filtering process, but I believe the time has been well spent, as I’m not contacting people who would be unlikely to buy. I’ve also refined my marketing messages to keep them short, to the point, and less likely to be dismissed out of hand.
Narrowing the Funnel
The process went something like this:
- Find all the colleges and universities in the U.S. that taught tech writing.
- Break out the list into larger schools, schools I’d heard of, or schools near me (for possible on-site classroom guest-speaking visits) and smaller schools.
- Identify the department chairs. The thinking here being that universities are much like businesses in the U.S. in that information tends to filter down from the top. Also, there are a lot fewer department chairs than overall professors. I didn’t want to make this a six-month project.
That seemed simple enough. However, I found the scope of programs and program information varied. For instance, some schools only had one or two classes in English or technical writing while others had large faculties and extensive technical writing programs. Those moved to the top of my list of target markets.
On the negative side of the filtering process, I discovered that colleges and universities employs different notions about which information they would share about their faculty online. Some didn’t post faculty information at all, just a paragraph saying how wonderful their staff was. A couple colleges went out of business. Some focused on the arts: poetry, fiction, theatre, and screenwriting. I reasoned that a student going to one of those institutions is not likely to be interested in technical writing. A few schools’ programs focused entirely on studying English literature and critical theory. I was going to avoid these schools as well, but upon reconsidering, included them anyhow. I had been an English literature major when I got my B.A. before I realized that I really wanted to be a tech writer.
Honing the Message
I’ve been dragging my feet on this marketing and outreach thing because I’ve allowed my introversion and overabundance of social caution to hold me back from pursuing success. One way I’ve dragged my feet is by asking multiple people to review my “pitch email.” In additional multiple tweaking drafts, the pitch underwent a full revision about 25% through the process. As a result, one group of schools got one version of the message, the rest received a slightly different, briefer version based on another friend’s feedback.
A perfectionist can think up all sorts of different ways to prevent action: a behavior my friends at NASA call “analysis paralysis.” However, after receiving my first royalty payment, I realized I was going to have to put a lot more effort into my marketing efforts if I wanted to make more money. I have no illusions about making Stephen King or Stephen Covey sales numbers…but I could be doing much better with a little more effort.
There’s more excitement to come, I certain. Meanwhile, if you’re a college or university professor who’s looking for a book to answer the question, “What’s it really like to be a technical writer?” I’ve got one your class would love.
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