Here at Smith Publicity we are always thrilled to see our authors succeed! Selena Rezvani began working with us in 2023 just before her book, Quick Confidence, was published and the whole office was able to celebrate her instant bestseller with her, which was a treat.
In this episode, Selena walks us through her publishing journey and what led to her success as an author, speaker, and thought leader.
What has your publishing journey looked like?
Well, I want to say that the bestseller status was not an overnight thing. In 2009, I wanted to interview women leaders at the top of their game, and I reached out to rockstar women I admired tremendously. Those interviews changed my life, and that set of research became my first book, The Next Generation of Women Leaders. I quit my corporate job, and I began speaking and opened my own business. As I went, I started to notice the kind of primacy of advocating for oneself in their career, both in the advice I was learning from women leaders, but also in my own writing. I was writing my own column for the Washington Post on women in leadership, and I thought, I want to write my next book about that, and so my next book, Pushback, came out in 2020. That book did well and was a little bit more of a slow burn. Fast forward to pandemic times, 2020, I noticed so many people’s confidence tanking, and it prompted me to start a weekly newsletter on LinkedIn called Quick Confidence, and that became my third book, my most recent one, just out May of 2023. That was my first bestseller, out of the gate.
What did becoming a bestseller look like for you?
It looked like the most exciting email you could ever imagine as an author from my publisher saying, “Don’t look now, but you’re number four on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list.” It also hit the Publishers Weekly bestseller list that same week. I think when you find out that you hit that bestseller status, there’s kind of the logical side of it, which is that factually, your book sold more copies than others in its category. I think for me, though, there’s an even more meaningful part, which was the representation part of being a best-selling author. I’m a woman of color, and while women make up something like half of publisher of published authors, people of color make up less than a quarter. So the thought of being even like a tiny force in changing the face of what authorship looks like, to maybe encourage somebody else to get out there and pitch that book concept or write that book or self-publish, but to put their work forward, that’s like the icing on the authorship cake.
What do you feel helped you reach bestseller status?
I worked pretty exhaustively on a bulk presale strategy with larger clients who actually knew me, who I had worked with. Start with who’s in your community and world and who’s been willing to maybe make a bet on you or take a chance. The trick to bulk presales with corporations was offering new incentives and goodies. And so, for example, if somebody bought between 50 and 250 copies, they got one kind of incentive or bonus. I don’t think there’s one way, I’m not sure my way necessarily works for every author, but I think it can really get your book off to a running start, to lean into who you know, who you have those trust-based relationships with, who’s shown up for you in the past, and start there and think creatively.
How did you help your professional brand gain momentum?
I doubled down on discipline and consistently creating. Noticing I’m only getting five followers every 60 days can be disheartening. There’s no way I could pretend that I didn’t notice that or track it, frankly. But here’s the wonderful thing about planting a forest rather than planting one perfect prize Petunia. You do not know what’s going to hit and resonate with people, sometimes in an explosive, viral way, and that’s what happened with me. I had decent growth. It was slow coming, but I had pretty decent growth on Instagram and LinkedIn and TikTok. Then I made a video one day that went viral. So give it a chance. It might take five times longer than you think, than you hope, than you wish. In my case, though, it’s really been worth it.
What has becoming a bestseller done for you and your brand?
It’s a little tempting to downplay bestselling status, but I have to say, to be a best-selling author can really be a door opener. It can be a credibility booster. It can lead to bigger collaborations and partnerships with organizations. It can help you command higher speaking fees. And of course, it makes pitching and publishing future books or just works a lot easier.
What are some ways you’ve utilized your bestseller title?
One awesome thing was that Wiley immediately changed the cover to add the Wall Street Journal bestseller sticker. Also, on your LinkedIn profile, add it to your headline, where you’re summarizing what you do or what you teach or what you are. Whether it’s a PowerPoint deck or maybe it’s a proposal written out about what I can bring and what I offer, add it there. I think the newest one has been with partnerships and being able to leverage that bestseller and best-selling author status with them is meaningful because they want a credible person doing that spokesperson work for them.
What is your number one piece of advice for authors?
No successful author is an island and don’t try to do it all yourself. You might think it’s like clever to save money and just do it yourself. It is so tempting to do that I really get it. But wherever you can, I would lean the other way. I would build in more help, more collaboration, more partnership than you think you will need. The point is, it really takes a village to create a bestseller, and you need to embrace some of that vulnerability that comes with that, which is, again, reaching out, depending on others, outsourcing, in some cases asking people to look at your work.
The All Things Book Marketing podcast is a popular biweekly show featuring book marketing and publicity tips from the top voices in the publishing industry. Be sure to subscribe so you never miss a new episode!
Selena Rezvani is a recognized consultant, speaker and author on leadership and self-advocacy. Named by Forbes “the premier expert on standing up for yourself at work,” she’s the author of the Wall Street Journal bestselling book Quick Confidence, and also wrote the award-winning Pushback and The Next Generation of Women Leaders, all about ways to make your voice heard and negotiate your needs at work. Selena addresses thousands of professionals each year at places like The World Bank, Under Armour, Microsoft, P&G, and many others. Today, she’s a columnist for NBC News’ Know Your Value. Selena is based in Philadelphia where she lives with her husband Geoff and 11 year old boy-girl twins. Learn more at www.selenarezvani.com and follow Selena on Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok.