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Grassroots Marketing to Build Your Contacts

Kristen Frantz Posted by Kristen Frantz, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Kristen Frantz is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 

Grassroots Marketing to Build Your Contacts

Through your speaking, business, social life, travel, networking, and friends of friends, you probably know a lot of influential people that could potentially help you market your book to more and more highly qualified consumers than without their help. The question is, “Is it worth all the trouble to organize getting the word out to all of them?”

The answer is, “Yes!” We have worked with many authors who have done this with great success. The key is to plan ahead and work your plan.

Pre-work (six months or more before the publication of your book):

Build your base:

  • Speak extensively to groups (associations, organizations, churches, corporations, etc.) that are your target audience. Through speaking you will establish a diverse platform and establish relationships with key “connectors”—influential contacts who can help you connect with other key contacts/organizations. At each speaking event, create a way to collect email addresses of attendees through permission of the speaking agent, passing around a newsletter sign up sheet, or offering a free giveaway (e-workbook, free article, etc.) for people that sign up for your email list at the event.   
  • Establish relationships with key organizations that you want to get the word out about the book. This can come in the form of retaining new clients, writing for an e-newsletter, speaking at events, sponsoring events, mutually referring clients/customer to each other, linking websites, etc.
  • Create formal partnerships with other organizations:

Ask these questions about any partnership:

  • What do you want from this partnership?
  • What do they want from this partnership?
  • What can we do collectively?
  • What do they do better than us/what audience do they reach better than us?
  • What do you do better than them that we can offer?

Criteria for a good partner:

  • There is a mission match. (They operate under similar principles and are attempting to accomplish similar goals, i.e. “Connecting People and Ideas to Create a World that Works For All”).
  • They have contacts that have paid to be part of them (e.g. membership dues, pay for subscription, etc.).
  • They have a large enough base to make sense to create a formal partnership.

List building (three to six months before the publication date):

Compile your list of contacts at least three months ahead of the book’s publication date. In addition to your professional contacts, you will want to include as many contacts from your personal life as well and get everyone in your organization onboard to contact all of their own personal contacts (e.g. friends, family members, etc.).

Depending on the size of your list and your ambitions for doing outreach, you may need to enlist the support of someone else to specifically research and compile these contacts. We think this is well worth the effort and expense because we are seeing more sales results from this kind of organizational outreach strategy than other marketing avenues. It may be worth investigating in your community to see if anyone has the appropriate skills to do this outreach. You may want to consider hiring a campaign manager to oversee this campaign if you don’t have access to staff, interns, colleagues, or others that can oversee this outreach.

You will need to compile three types of lists:

  • Key organizations to pitch early on to see if they will activate their own networks
  • Key contacts that you want to receive a copy of the book as soon as it ships
  • Email list of all your contacts that you want to blast at publication date

Pre-pitch (three to one month before publication date):

This is the time to go out to your organizational contacts to enlist their help getting the word out about your book. Make your pitch very direct and create a sense of urgency: “Will you send this message on this date to your entire list and put the book on your home page?” Once you get commitments, you need to follow up and hold those partners to their commitments. You can also offer to help them out in the future. Don’t view this outreach as marketing, it should instead be seen as relationship building. We also recommend a philosophy of abundance, meaning looking at what is possible in our relationship and what we can do together to further each other’s missions.

Here are some of the examples of things you can ask for in your pitch, depending on the organization:

  • Purchase copies of the book on this date. (You can choose to direct the sales to your favorite bookseller, our website www.bkconnection.com or your own site.)
  • Tell your community about the book. Send an alert to your email list, promote it in your e-newsletter, and/or promote it through your social networks on this date.
  • Blog about the ideas in the book.
  • Set up a page or link to the book on your website by this date.
  • Write a review of the book on Amazon.com, Goodreads.com, or in other forums (newsletters, magazines, newspapers, etc.) by this date.
  • Tell your friends and family about the book by this date!

Pre-order push (6 weeks before publication):

About six weeks before publication do a preorder email blast to your email list and through social media channels with a special offer to create urgency for them to preorder the book before publication. This will also help you keep building your email list with new contacts. A great resource for how to do this well is Tim Grahl’s book, Book Launch Blueprint. Getting some preorders in advance of publication date of your book will signal to booksellers, including Amazon.com, to order up, so that they are well-stocked for publication date.

Review copy mailing to key contacts (three weeks before publication date):

About one week after the ship date of the book, you will receive your free copies for promotional use. You should be ready to send these out as soon as you receive them to key contacts that are part of your network, thanking them for their contribution to this work and asking for their help in getting the word out per the above suggestions. Some authors have found it very effective to gift wrap the books and write a very personal message. They have gotten great feedback that the recipient felt it was more meaningful and stood out more to be sent in this way. If appropriate, you can also promote the Berrett-Koehler bulk discounts for your book and our sales staff would be happy to follow up with these contacts to see if they are interested in placing a bulk order with us. Just send us a list with email and phone numbers after your mailing goes out and we will do the follow up.

Blast-off (at publication date):

This is the time to follow up the pre-pitches you made to organizational contacts to make sure they are following through on the commitments they made. It is also the time to do another outreach to individual contacts in the form of an email blast.

Again, the email blasts themselves should also be simple and direct. Don’t worry that one individual might be receiving multiple messages about the book in one day. With all the noise of daily life, it is hard to get people’s attention. It is easy to ignore one message, but hard to forget many.  When the same message comes across your path multiple times, you start to think, “Hmmm, this must be something that is worth knowing about, talking about, or supporting.” That’s marketing for you!

Follow-up (within one month of publication date):

Send personal thank you letters to organizations and individuals that helped in some way and offer your support to them.


Get organized and get out there to leverage your contacts. Be direct. Keep it simple. Create urgency. Be transparent. Think big and be motivated and passionate about your new baby! Doing this kind of outreach is a great way to sell books and build relationships that will serve you for many years to come.