My first book, Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, was finally released almost three months ago. After years of writing this book and having it go through the critiques of three editors, it was finally being published. People congratulated me on writing a book and having it published, but they had no idea that for me, the really hard part was just beginning—I had to start asking for help.
I knew there was going to be significant marketing involved in spreading the word about a new book by a new author. No problem. While I am a gerontologist and social worker, I consider myself to be a pretty good business person who has never been afraid to market or sell services or products I believe could benefit others. Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One certainly fell into this category. After all, the whole purpose of Cruising Through Caregiving was to help caregivers reduce stress while taking care of someone who is sick or disabled. In an effort to help caregivers reduce stress, Cruising Through Caregiving encourages caregivers to unapologetically ask for help.
Well in a twist of irony, guess what the first step in book publicity 101 is? You guessed it: asking for help. From your friends. From your family. From your customers. From strangers.
Seriously? I have a great team at my company Jenerations who I pay; I brought on a great publicist who I pay. And of course I personally was willing to work my own butt off on getting the word out about Cruising Through Caregiving. Won’t those efforts be enough? But I was told by my publisher and many other author colleagues that while having a team and a publicist is great, it will definitely not be enough to get the word out about a new book by a new author. You need to ask everyone in your life, both personally and professionally, to support the book. I felt sick. I hate asking for favors.
But I did it. I asked complete strangers to read the advance reader copy of Cruising Through Caregiving and to give an endorsement. I asked colleagues, family and friends to connect me with said strangers so I could make the “ask.” I cringed while doing this. I felt like I was “bothering” people. This was very different from me selling Jenerations’ services to organizations.
When I sell Jenerations’ services, there is an exchange. They pay for our speaking or consulting services and the goal is for it to be a win-win. My team and I earn a living while the customer gets a valuable service. In the case of marketing Cruising Through Caregiving, I asked for a favor and the person who helped me was receiving nothing in return. This was beyond uncomfortable for me.
During this time, I thought very hard about caregivers who opt to go it alone, taking care of a loved one who is ill or disabled. Caregivers are exhausted and stressed and we professionals are constantly pushing them to ask for help. Here I was during a joyous and exciting time feeling uncomfortable asking for help. It gave me a new perspective about how many independent-minded caregivers may feel about “bothering” others to help them through caregiving.
The overwhelming support I received before, during, and after the launch of Cruising Through Caregiving has been humbling. Some of our best friends, the Wisnoms, shocked my husband and me with a limousine for the first book signing at Barnes & Noble. My oldest and dearest friend Megan Young (who has a huge job) drove nearly 300 miles roundtrip on a weeknight to attend that signing.
Colleagues, friends and family came in droves to the Book Launch Party (a different event from the Barnes & Noble signing), some battling frustrating traffic and flooding. Many had to take time off of work to attend. Still others supported the book by posting memes or reviews on social media, telling friends about it, asking their local libraries to bring it in and even just buying copies outright.
Throughout Cruising Through Caregiving, I discuss how not everyone in your life who you ask to help you with caregiving will step up. But sometimes people you would never have imagined being of service gladly respond. I must admit– there are a few people in my life who didn’t respond to my request for support of the book. But those who did support the book made up for those who didn’t a hundredfold. In fact, there were people I hadn’t been in touch with or heard from in years who went out of their way to share the word about Cruising Through Caregiving.
The same phenomenon occurs in caregiving. Caregivers often focus on and lament about the people who haven’t stepped up to the plate. They have a sister who lives in another state who does nothing for their mother! Mom’s best friend hasn’t visited her once since she’s been in the hospital! But when you make a bigger ask to your entire network, you may be surprised by who appears.
When told to ask for help in caregiving, most people think small—much like I did about getting the word out about my book. Initially I thought asking for help from my team at Jenerations and my publicist would be plenty. But I learned I needed to put “the ask“ out to my whole community: colleagues, friends and family. I was thinking small at first—and this is the same mistake most caregivers make.
Caregivers ask immediate family and closest friends for help and are disappointed when not everyone comes through. But have you really reached out to everyone in your life? Does everyone who cares about you or cares about the loved one you are caring for know what you are going through? If you ask your sister to help out with your Dad and she doesn’t come through—you may feel resentful and angry. But her inability or unwillingness to help will sting much less when you are filled with gratitude for that neighbor you barely know who offers to pick up Dad’s prescriptions.
I am guessing that no less than 500 people in my colleagues, friends and family network helped get the word out about Cruising Through Caregiving. I want to publicly thank them all. And I want to encourage all caregivers to think bigger. This new year, make sure everyone in your life knows you are open to their support and help. And don’t just let them know you are open to help—let them know what kind of help you could use. Then just say thank you to those who respond.