The thing about strategic partnerships is…at least for me, they didn’t start out feeling very strategic. It helps if you find something to write about that you really love. In fact, it’s recommended, since you will be spending a lot of time with your topic, so you better have some pretty positive feelings about it, or else you are going to become unhappy very quickly. I really love to spend time outdoors. Even so, writing books about Easy Walks was not my plan, especially when I found myself unable to walk because of serious illness.
The challenge of paralysis forced me to reevaluate everything in my life. Writing became a viable option for me when other avenues of being productive and earning a living had become difficult to impossible. But writing trail books? Not on my radar. As I regained some mobility, I polished my writing skills over years of contributing articles to our local newspaper.
A chance conversation with a newspaper editor launched a monthly newspaper column I wrote called “Naturally New England.” Those columns later became the genesis of my “Easy Walks” blog. I put the links to the articles on my writing website. Within a short time, one article had received over 500 visits. People kept googling “Where’s Joe’s Rock?” and found my website. (Joe’s Rock is in Wrentham, MA, and has a nice view.) Sensing a need, I set out to document other very local trails and put them into a small trail guide. Thus my journey to becoming an expert on Easy Walks began.
Where has strategy come in? The most consistent strategy I have pursued has been to walk through the doors that open to me. Many doors I knocked on, expecting great results, have not opened. I have found other doors, however, that have opened, and in each case I have continued heading in that direction.
One open door occurred when I created a book page on Facebook. I was new to social media, but had been advised I needed to have a book page to help publicize my first Easy Walks book. Creating a book page will gain you very little on Facebook without new and interesting content that people engage with. What could be easier than sharing photos of local trails and writing more blog posts about these beautiful places to share on social media? Before I knew it, I had nearly completed a second local walking trail book. I tailored the book to conform to a geographic area of the local area visitor’s bureau, hoping we could partner in publicizing the newest book once it was done. Despite my careful strategy, the synergy I hoped for was not there.
Social media also introduced me to other trail groups, including a state-wide group sponsoring a trail conference. At the conference I met the folks of the Massachusetts Walking Tour, musicians who walk from one town to the next over two weeks each summer, carrying their instruments, offering concerts in each town they visit. The Walking Tour folks presented at the trail conference, and I fell in love with their music. Giving them a copy of my first Easy Walks book, I said, “We need to work together!” Five years later, we have collaborated on two separate summer tours, in which they used my books to help chart out their route, offering “Easy Walks” along the way. They have become dear friends, and wrote the foreward to my most recent book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. I look forward to collaborating with them again in the future for more “Massachusetts Easy Walks tours”.
While planning the 2019 Massachusetts Walking Tour, a staff person from L.L. Bean reached out to me by email. She had searched for “Easy Walks” hoping to find someone to offer a presentation at her local L.L. Bean store and found me through my blog posts. We talked by phone, and although I didn’t think my books would be of great interest to her audience, being “out of area” for where the first three books cover, by the end of our conversation we agreed that I could offer a presentation about “Finding Easy Walks.” I had just gotten the idea for my next book.
This open door opened yet another door to the local L.L. Bean store in the area my local guides cover. We collaborated not only with L.L. Bean, but with the Massachusetts Walking Tour, which arranged to walk to the L.L. Bean store, offered a small concert there, and provided an opportunity for me to publicize my books. The store carried (and sold!) all my books they stocked.
This spring we were in conversation to get more books into the local L.L. Bean store and talked about placing the newest book at the store this past summer, when Covid-19 disrupted everyone’s plans. I recently reached out to my contacts, but it appears they are no longer with the company. And so I begin strategizing again.
I am convinced of the value of these books, so it is easier to approach others about how we can work together to help get out the word. Each open door has led to other doors. Some may open, others may not. What I’ve learned is that when people are able to offer help that is easy for them to give, they can be quite generous. You cannot go through every door. But you can find the one that opens, go through, see where it leads, and keep going. It may not always be an Easy Walk, but you’ll find your way. Happy trails!
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