Create a National Association

Whether you’re trying to get a literary agent and need what agents and publishers call a national ‘platform,’ or you’re self-publishing your books and just looking for increased sales, one of the most effective things you can do is to create a national association.

Creating a national association quickly positions you as the expert in a niche. Moreover, it positions you as an authority to both the general public and the media. I recently helped one of my Expertizing clients create a national association to showcase her expertise. Katie Jay weighed more than 300 pounds when she underwent the weight loss surgery that changed her life. Now, having slimmed down to a size 8, she’s created the National Association for Weight Loss Surgery.

Here’s how she did it – and how you can create a national association to enhance your positioning and book sales:

Lock in the website. The first thing to do is to lock in the website domain name for your association. When journalists do a story the first thing they usually do is Google to see to whom they should speak. If you’re the director of a national association on their topic, you’re going to be one of their first go-to sources. The first thing Katie did was to lock in the and websites for her organization; she also locked in so, though unwieldy, it’s more likely to contain the words that journalists will Google.

Create a board of directors. In order for your association to have credibility, you’ll want to put together an appropriate board of directors. Unless you’re creating a nonprofit foundation (ask your accountant whether it’s worth the paperwork involved) there are no legal requirements for board members, so just think about getting a mix of people who will provide useful advice for your fledgling organization.

Katie invited well-known bariatric surgeons, dieticians, and weight loss therapists to join her board. And don’t forget to thank the individuals who have taken the time and energy to serve on your board and contribute to your association. Katie keeps her board members in the loop about what’s happening with the association, and invites the group out for a celebratory dinner once a year to express her appreciation.

Put your content online. Once Katie had a board of directors in place, she began soliciting content from them, in the form of articles and columns. The more content your association can disseminate on your niche topic, the more useful-and credible-it will be, and the more experts who contribute their knowledge, the bigger the influence.

Heavy content on your website also boosts your search engine rankings -so we’re working on not only putting Katie’s content on the NAWLS website, but posting it in various spots online as a syndicated weight loss column to increase her incoming links and boost her rankings. (We’re also inviting other organizations and sources to add in-bound links, and we’re posting tantalizing press releases online as well, all with the goal of increasing those coveted search engine rankings.)

Put together a juicy member package. People are used to getting free content online, so you’ll need more than information to make your association successful. Piece together a subscription package that includes special reports, books, special offers from related vendors, discussion forums, and other perks that will appeal to your target market. Katie offers a discussion forum, samples of various weight loss products supplied by her advertisers, and a complimentary copy of her book, Dying to Change: My Really Heavy Life Story. The book isn’t available in bookstores, only via membership in the association – and instead of collecting $14 per copy for just the book, she can charge $79 per membership. Moreover, she has none of the hassles typically associated with bookstore sales – no returns, no crummy credit terms, no distribution snafus.

Go after the media. To grow your association, you’ll need to get press attention. Luckily, a national association is usually an easy sale for a journalist. Katie’s had press interest already from publications and media as diverse as CNN to the National Enquirer. And as always, the more press you get, the more journalists will be interested in you. Press attention feeds on itself, so get started!

Listen to your members. Then sit back and take your cues from your members. If they want more discussion, set up a forum. If they’re asking for more advice, get a few writers to answer their questions. If they’re looking for more freebies, see if your advertisers would be interested in tossing in some loot.

Katie’s members were looking for more inspiration in their daily lives -so Katie began sending them a daily inspirational thought via email to keep them on track. The best way to have a successful association is to really listen to what your members want and need – and then deliver it.

So consider whether founding a national association will take your platform where you want to go. And then get out there and start one!

Fern Reiss of, is the author of The Publishing Game book series. Sign up at for her complimentary monthly email newsletter.