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!
February 15th, 2016 at 6:39 am · Link
Great post, Jenn! And ugh. I truly suck at networking. I mean, I’m okay online – or I used to be before I got busy – but in-person? Unless you count gabbing at people in the store, I’m not really out there. Conferences leave me cold. Writer groups in the area are worse. At least at a conference, I might run into someone I know from online. So yeah, this is one aspect of the biz I’m falling down on. Not sure if I’ve got what it takes to make that kind of change, though.
February 15th, 2016 at 12:09 pm · Link
B.E, you do a great job networking online! And you know how it is, if something doesn’t work for you, don’t do it. Life is too short! I don’t do a lot of travel mostly because I don’t travel well. I’m going to the RWA conference this year because it’s closer and easy (but still expensive!) for me.
However if you are at a conference and I’m there, definitely let me know!
February 15th, 2016 at 12:30 pm · Link
I love going to RWA Nationals. I get the chance to catch up with writers I know, make friends with writers I don’t, learn stuff, and occasionally bump into industry professionals who might help me in the future. But it’s huge and can be overwhelming.
Everyone says I need to go to RT–which is more reader oriented. I’ve resisted because it seems even more overwhelming with being on constant display and all the expected interaction. I’m a solitary beast and need my peace and quiet. LOL
I haven’t tried any of the smaller, regional conferences as the budget always seems to intrude.
I’m not a social media animal and I need to be more cognitive of that. I do try to post to my author FB page every day and always reply to those who leave a comment. I used to be on twittter a lot but then I got all these follows and I followed and now the stream gives me a headache. LOL
Still, this is wonderful advice, Jen. And I love the story of how you met Rebecca Zanetti. I’m so stoked that you’re part of the 1001 Nights. *fist pumps* Withholding names to protect the guilty, I witnessed a cautionary tale to illustrate #7. I was in the bar at RWA Washington DC. It was my first time at RWA, I was barely published and scared spitless but like all the pundits said, I hung out in the bar. It was early–before it got truly noisy. I was sitting alone and there was a boisterous table behind the pillar where I was sitting. As I was alone in the crowded space and had extra chairs, a very nice lady appeared and asked if she could join me while she waited for her group to arrive as they were going out to dinner. We introduced ourselves, I admitted I hadn’t read her books because they weren’t a genre I normally read but I had her latest on on my TBR pile because I’d seen it mentioned on a blog I followed and it intrigued–which was the truth. Someone at the noisy table started in on this well-known author, talking all sorts of smack about her. I was horrified, she was pragmatic. Her party arrived and I was introduced to her agent, her editor, and another well-known author. They all heard the conversation going on and made a show of exiting the bar past that table. I couldn’t see but from the total silence, I figure there was some smirking going on as the group passed by.
I did read the book on my TBR, and I dropped the author an email telling her I enjoyed it. We still bump into each other at RWA and unless one of us is in a hurry, we stop to visit for a few minutes.
February 15th, 2016 at 3:35 pm · Link
Silver, I’ve heard mixed reviews about RT. But connecting with readers is always good. there’s another on that’s slipping my mind now, but it’s a reader conf. and supposed to be good.
Smaller conferences can be more fun sometimes.
And FYI I think you’re a great example at #8!! Sadly we’ve probably all seen it happen.
LOL on the Twitter stream headache! Me too I need to try and keep promising myself I will.
That’s a great story on #4! Stuff like the contests, volunteering etc.
February 15th, 2016 at 5:02 pm · Link
Fantastic post and it goes across the board. No matter what you’re trying to do. I wish young people today could all read this post and apply it to getting a start on life ;).
Did you have a great time at the meeting? I hope you also had a nice dinner ;).
We had to drive through really nasty snow and terrible roads but we still went out ;). We took my car, not his GLA. That thing with racing tires would have put us in a ditch (and there were many cars/SUV’s in the ditch). I love my X3 :).
I hope you have a great week!
February 15th, 2016 at 7:44 pm · Link
Viki, thank you for the kind words! Wouldn’t it be nice if kids listened to us? But much of what we’ve learned is through sheer experience
We had a great dinner Saturday night! Best we’ve had in a while. The meeting was good too.
I’m sorry you guys had to fight through the wicked weather — I’ve been hearing it’s bad. And here we are sitting in 80 degree weather in February which should be our rainiest month. Weird weather! And very glad you guys were in your car that can handle the snow and ice!