It’s Business Monday and today I’m talking about Networking, both for the published and not-yet-published writer. So let’s get started!
If you’re a writer, tell me if you’ve seen this. At conference, the writer—it doesn’t matter if she’s published or not—running around with the big stack of business cards, handing them out with a frantic zeal to anyone she can get to stand sill long enough. If she does engage in a conversation, it’s to pitch her book and then she’s off to the next person.
This writer believes she’s networking. And I’m betting she’s sincerely trying. But is she leaving the impression she intends to leave? The cold truth is most people will toss her business card because there’s no real connection. The exception is an agent or publisher who was blown away by her pitch, but that’s extremely rare.
Now here’s another story of networking. Years ago, I was at the Anaheim RWA Conference, and I was sitting at a table, going over some notes for a workshop I was giving in a few minutes.
“Excuse me, aren’t you Jennifer Apodaca?”
I looked up to see a woman I didn’t recognize. It was even more surprising because it had been a while since I published under that name. But I smiled and said yes. She began telling me how much she loved my mystery series.
I was charmed by her, asked her to sit down and she introduced herself. We chatted, and since we were at a writer’s conference, I asked her if she wrote. Yep, turns out she was published too. Her name is Rebecca Zanetti. I didn’t recognize her name (don’t laugh! In my defense, it was before she was a bestseller). That night I looked up her books, bought one, started reading it and became her fangirl.
We kept in touch, I promoted her books because I love them and she promoted the heck out of my Plus One Chronicles.
And that is how I ended up being offered a spot in the 1001 Dark Night Discovery Program-because Rebecca Zanetti met me at a conference, then later read my Plus One Chronicles and recommended me.
That day in Anaheim, Rebecca wasn’t trying to sell me on herself or her books when she approached me, and I sure wasn’t trying to sell her. We just connected in a genuine way and became friends. That is the best kind of networking, it’s real and lasting, rather than calculated.
Today, I’d like to give some tips and thoughts on what I think works in genuine networking. These are just my opinion.
1) GET OUT THERE! This is hard for me as I’m naturally shy, but I’ve taught myself to get out there occasionally and socialize. If I can do it then so can you! Find writer organizations that fit your interests like: Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Left Coast Crime, Novelist Ink, and a number other ones. Then get out of your writing cave and go to a meeting. Yes it’s scary the first time you walk in, but here’s the thing–these are your people! They understand what it’s like to have fictional characters taking up space inside their head. They think discussing ways to kill and hide a body is normal. Go! You’ll be amazed to find you are not so strange after all.
2) Conferences: These are usually packed with amazing speakers and workshops presenting a wide variety of information crammed into few days. Most conferences will give you real insight into the latest marketing/publishing trends that everyone is talking about. But conferences can also be budget busters, so do your research and ask other writers their favorites. Also look for smaller, less expensive local conferences. Bigger doesn’t mean better.
3) Social media and the internet. The internet is huge with vast opportunities. Just remember, you are still networking and professionalism is key. Think about your online persona. If your goal is to network, building friendly connections with a wide variety of writers and industry professionals, then politics and religion may narrow that field. Only you can decide what the best choice is for you, your career and your online persona. But it’s like I tell my kids, make the choice a conscious decision, not a spur-of-the-moment emotional impulse. Think about it before you act. Writers are people too, and there’s nothing wrong with showing our passionate side. I just caution you to make sure it’s the passion you want to share with the world.
4) What can YOU do for other writers? This is really important. Networking is a two way street. What are you good at? Or care about? Find out and then share that with other writers. When I started this blog, I had no idea I’d make so many friends and connections through it, and I sincerely value all of you so much. Even if you’re a beginning writer, you have skills in something. Maybe you’ve raised goats, are a painter, or worked as a line cook in an upscale restaurant. Offer your expert advice! People will remember you and it will come back to you in ways you never imagined.
5) The dreaded business card. Despite my earlier story about the business cards, they are an excellent networking tools. By all means get some printed, and once you’ve made a connection in person, that’s a good time to say, “Oh here’s my business card. Let’s keep in touch.” Then follow up with a short email saying it was a pleasure to meet them.
6) Take risks. Reach out to people. Maybe you’ve never met Editor A, but you think you have the right project for her. If you’re multi-published, send her a well-crafted email. If you’re unpublished, send her a killer query letter. THIS IS NETWOKING TOO. The editor might reject you, but if she includes a personal note, then you can thank her, and say, “I’m going to be at Such & Such conference in July and I see you’re there too (after checking the conference website). If you have a few minutes, I’d love to buy you a drink and chat.” Reach out! Take risks! All people can say is no, and then you handle it gracefully and move on. That is networking.
7) A caution on something that is NOT networking. Do not badmouth other authors or industry professionals just because you don’t like them, or don’t think they deserve success. That will come off sounding like professional jealousy. Now if there is a factual issue such as an agent not submitting proposal to editors as promised or a publisher not paying contracted royalties, then you may choose to share that information with other writers. But slamming an author for making it big is petty. For instance, badmouthing a huge author in a bar at a conference, you could be sitting next to her agent. And that agent will remember. It happens. We are trying to reach out and network, not alienate people. Like all humans, there are people I just don’t care for. That’s okay, I don’t have to go to lunch with them or share a room with them at conference. But I do need to treat them with respect, especially in on a professional level.
8 ) My final thought on networking. Remember who your ultimate customers are–readers. Don’t forget to network with your readers! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your newsletter, personal signings, whatever it is, reach out to your readers. In my view, they are the most important people in our professional life! I do random gift card giveaways on my FB page just because I love my readers and want to give back to them. I’m passionate about my readers and you should be too!
Now get out there and network!
If any of you have tips you’d like to add, I’d love to hear them in the comments!