Six months, six sections, and 212 pages later, my poetry book, When He Leaves You, debuted as the #1 New Release in Canadian Poetry on Amazon.com. It was a long journey that I truly believe I wouldn’t have had the energy or hustle for without having completed my undergrad at UWaterloo.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for literature and writing - I feel fortunate that I was able to take this to the next level at UWaterloo. As an English minor, I got access to incredible professors, like Canadian author Carrie Snyder and critical thinker and rhetorician extraordinaire, Diana Lobb. As a Psychology major, I learned the importance of understanding human motivation and relationship building in marketing.
From doing my first two co-op terms with Velocity to eventually becoming the president of the Entrepreneurship Society in my last year, finding a target market and building a community to support it was ingrained into my being. During co-op, I learned about product-market fit and how to build and engage a large online audience entirely through social media.
Put this all together, and what do you get? In August 2017, I started posting poetry to my Instagram (@michaelapoetry) every day. I figured I needed to see if there was an audience for my work - if it was something others could relate to, and even more importantly, if there was a demand for an entire book of my writing. In six months, I grew my poetry Instagram from 100 followers to 20,000. I placed importance on authentic engagement, sharing my life, building a memorable aesthetic, and making friends with other writers who had the same dreams. When I got my first DM asking if I had a book, I had a feeling I had reached product-market fit.
The most important lesson I learned while at UWaterloo was how much better things can be when you lean on other people. I was first introduced to this concept as “networking,” but when it really comes down to it, it’s about building strong relationships with people who have your back.
Whenever I start my list of thank yous, it never ends - but I owe so much appreciation to fellow UWaterloo alumnus Suhaila Baheyeldin for designing my cover, The Local Advocate for connecting me with the community, The Maker’s Collective for their support and having me on their podcast, and even the UWaterloo bookstore for being the first brick-and-mortar location to carry When He Leaves You.
I wouldn’t have been able to have such a successful book launch as an independent author without my connection to UWaterloo and the community lifting me up.