Networking is vital for all writers. You make connections, those may lead to taking part in events like book fairs, but, most importantly, you make friends. There is nobody like another writer who will understand the drive to write and its frustrations.
Networking also helps you to practice pitching your book (and yourself) to others. You must be able to get across your ideas succinctly and in such a way others will want to know more. Most writers are sympathetic to others doing this. Why? Because we all have to start somewhere and there is an innate desire in most writers to want to know what others are writing.
When I was first starting as a writer, networking used to worry me. It was on realising networking meant talking about writing (my own and others) I relaxed about it. I suddenly realised I would have no problem talking about something I love doing!
I’ve found at writing conferences such as the Winchester Writers’ Festival and Swanwick Writers’ Summer School networking comes naturally as you get into conversation with people about what they write and they ask you about your projects. Before you know it, you’ve got a good conversation going, you may well find out about competitions or publishers the other writer has found useful and so on.
So the tips I would pass on for improving your networking would be:-
Go to writing conferences. You’ll learn from the courses and talk to other writers.
Try reputable creative writing classes. You will meet other writers and soon be talking about your work and theirs.
Talk to other writers about what they write, why they write it and so on. They’ll generally be glad to tell you. Be prepared for people asking you this. Think about what you’d say ahead of having to say it! (I’ve found this useful. Knowing you’ve got something you can say in answer to this question takes a lot of nervousness away).
Engage with fellow writers via Facebook and Twitter especially (though don’t rule out social media such as Linkedin. Focus on what you find you’re most comfortable with so if, say, you’re a Facebook fan stick to that. It is better to network well online via one media rather than spread yourself too thin). Never dominate conversations but contribute useful comments to threads. People will start to recognise your name popping up and it may lead to chances to have more in-depth conversations on line.
If you’re worried about talking to people, especially if you’re going to a conference for the first time, bear in mind you won’t be the only one in that situation. I’ve found opportunities for talking to other writers occur naturally as you all go and get tea, coffee, lunch etc.
Most writers subscribe to a writing magazine so you can always ask about what they read in that line and what they’ve found most helpful.
In a moment I will share thoughts about networking from fellow Chapeltown Books author, Mandy Huggins. Her flash fiction collection, Brightly Coloured Horses, came out recently. I’ve only “met” Mandy online via Facebook writing groups and Chapeltown Books links and I hope Amanda and I might meet up in person at a book event in the future. However, in the meantime, we “talk” online and her thoughts on networking now follow.
The Importance of Networking – Mandy Huggins
Networking is important to writers for a number of reasons, some of which are obvious from the outset, and some of which only become apparent when you have a book to promote!
I think it’s brilliant that the internet enables us to connect with other authors without leaving the house. Don’t get me wrong, I love to meet up with writers in real life, however I work full time in engineering and so I have very little spare time to attend events, book fairs or festivals. Being in online writing groups is therefore very important to me.
All writers are constantly listening out for fresh opportunities, looking for feedback and advice, and seeking out new platforms on which to promote their work. If we share this information online it enables us all to explore a much wider range of possibilities than we’d ever find alone. I’ve always found writers to be an incredibly supportive bunch, and there are so many helpful blogs and groups out there, but if I had to recommend just one then it would be Paul McVeigh’s marvellous blog – http://paulmcveigh.blogspot.co.uk/
Yet although the internet is a useful tool, it’s easy to spread yourself too thin, and it’s sensible to pick just two or three things that work for you. I’ve always concentrated on Facebook groups and Twitter – the latter being the best option for marketing – however I’m now finding that blogging is becoming more important when promoting my work as well.
My first flash fiction collection, Brightly Coloured Horses, was recently published by Chapeltown Books, and I have a full-length short story collection, Separated From the Sea, coming out in June with Retreat West Books. Having two books out in the same year is a daunting prospect – exciting and scary at the same time! Networking has suddenly become vital for professional reasons as well as for informal ones.
However, building a strong network of contacts is a slow process. You need to establish a rapport with other writers and industry professionals by helping to promote their work in turn for them promoting yours, as well as sharing gossip and tips. It’s also essential to reply to your followers tweets and re-tweet anything of interest to you, as well as sharing and commenting on relevant Facebook posts.
I now have to add press releases, interviews, email promotions and blog tours to my repertoire. I enjoy some aspects of marketing, but there are parts of the process I find hard going, and not what I thought I’d signed up for when I started writing six years ago. I’ve often heard writers bemoan the difficulty of getting readers to leave reviews, and wondered just how hard it could really be – now I know!
The other thing I find quite daunting is promoting myself and my work in public. Like a lot of other writers I suffer from impostor syndrome to some extent, and I think if people actually meet me then they’ll realise I’m just a clumsy northerner whose books don’t deserve to be published! Also, a writer and a performer are two different things, and my bet is quite a few authors might prefer to hire an actor to double for them at readings or book signings. I’m getting better at it though!
Many thanks, Mandy. Yes, building contacts is a slow process, but then you are “in” writing for the long haul. I don’t think there is any author who hasn’t had imposter syndrome in their time. It’s a matter of building up confidence in who you are and what you write and also accepting not everyone will like what you write but that doesn’t matter. What matters is there are people who will like what you write! It is a question of finding them but networking can help enormously there so it is worth doing.
As for reviews for books, this is a tricky one. I will mention to non-writers especially a review for a book doesn’t have to be long, one or two lines is enough, but the review must be honest. So if you want to help a writer friend, an honest review is helpful. Amazon and Goodreads are the two places where every writer wants reviews.
The golden “rule” as far as I’ve come across one is you have to be comfortable with what networking you do. Funnily enough, I’ve found it helps me to relax “just being myself” and that makes networking easier. Hopefully, if you’re a writer worried about this, just being yourself might prove the best thing you can do for yourself and your writing.