Last week I wrote an article about the benefits of going to book launches. I pontificated about the opportunity to listen to the author tell you about their novel and their journey in writing the piece that they were presenting. I also extolled the virtues of free food and wine (!) along with the opportunity of getting a novel that was fresh off the press but I only gave a passing glance towards a key benefit of the night – networking.
If you write a set of short stories or a collection of poems or even a novel but never show it to someone, or just do it for yourself then it could be considered a hobby, but if you are determined to get it published and earn a living from it, then it stops being an art form and moves into the business realm. And we all know that to have a successful business, you need to network. Writing is no different because talent isn’t worth a damn if no one knows that you exist.
Networking in the literary world can be done in a number of different ways, the most common of which are book launches which you probably have been going to anyway. But the next time go with a view to making new connections. Connections don’t have to be about work – they can be both personal and professional.
When you are at an event, don’t stand at the side like a wall flower – while I realise that this could require a certain level of personal confidence, this is where the wine can come in handy. Just don’t overdo it!! As a business owner myself, I realise that people buy from people – it’s about personality and engagement – so keep your ears open. Don’t interrupt any private conversations but try and introduce yourself to other guests. Remember a nice smile can be very disarming! Ask questions – just don’t be too pushy. Put your name down on email contact lists for future events or readings. All of this helps you engage with the wider group. Potentially you might meet professionals from any area of the literary world – writers, editors, publicists, cover designers, buyers, agents and everyone in between. If you feel that a conversation has gone well, don’t be afraid to ask for a business card. Make sure you have one of your own ready to exchange.
Another great way to meet like-minded people, especially when you are starting out, is at a writers group or seminar. Writing.ie has a number of excellent events and courses detailed so check out the section on courses and events here. Learn from other authors what they are writing about, the pitfalls in the industry, their successes or just that they are human and have the same problems of you – from writing and plotting issues to getting distracted by the television or spending too long on Facebook. How many words day do they write? Do they write less or more than them? And does that really matter at the end of the day? You will find them to be the same self-doubting creatures as yourself but if they can do it, then so can you. Other writers can be a great source of encouragement when you are deep into the editing process or banging your head against your keyboard.
Getting yourself known could be the difference between an agent reading your material and just passing over it – if an agent receives ten submissions one day, nine of which are from someone they have never heard of but the last one is the person that they met at a writing.ie function the week before, they will be much more likely to engage readily with your material.
There is another form of networking that I feel is overlooked – reviewing other writers’ books. Authors especially self-published ones, really need reader interaction. With 10 million novels available on Amazon alone, reviews are vital to make your book stand out – good reviews I mean, I don’t think that putting up a review saying the book is terrible would endear you to anyone, but neither should you review blindly. If it isn’t good, then I’d suggest just pass on making a written comment on it. But don’t review looking to get something back and put up something on Facebook such as I will review yours if you review mine. Do it because it’s a generous thing to do. Writers will respond to that and you will get your reviews.
Web based networking can be done from the comfort of your sitting room while wearing your favourite leopard skin onesie, on any of the social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You could write a blog on your experiences either writing, editing or trying to get an agent or to get published. The more people that you have following your social media account can be an added bonus when an agent is giving your book the once over. The book needs to be right, but assuming that, he or she will reason that if you can get 5000 people to follow you then there is a good chance that they will buy your book – if you come pre-packaged with an audience that is a big positive.
(c) Darren Darker