Does the thought of talking to strangers make your palms sweat, stomach knot, and stir up utter panic? Well, guess what buttercup – as a writer, you better get over that. In the writing industry, talking to strangers (a.k.a. networking) is a must. A simple and useful tool, networking takes little time and can drastically help your authorship. Today, it is not enough to publish a book and just put it out there for the readers to grab. In addition to marketing your platform, you have to get out there and network yourself among the masses. Networking is a free way to connect with other writers and learn from their experiences. In addition, authors love to promote other authors as we all know the struggles of self-marketing and publishing. Networking can also stir up potential readers and raise their curiosity about your works. Nothing draws in people more than a firm handshake and a friendly smile.
Here are a few tips on how to network yourself:
1) Practice, practice, practice – Grab a friend and work on your elevator pitch. Make it short, sweet, and too the point as people tend to lose interest in lengthy monologues. Practice your handshake and asking questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no. Questions are the perfect kindling for long lasting conversation.
2) Know yourself and your strengths – Do you specialize in anything or have an interesting story? Use that to your advantage when interacting with someone new who doesn’t know you or what you do. As you speak, allow your passion for the topic to shine through. When people see how deeply you hold the topic to your heart, they will be instantly drawn to it.
3) Listen – Most people love to talk; all people love being listened to. Open your ears and take in what others have to say. Engage them in conversation based off what they are talking about. Also, show genuine interest in what they are saying as they may be very passionate about it. By keeping your ears open and staying engaged, you will form a lasting connection with someone and possibly pick up on tidbits of information that may strengthen your writing career.
4) Go Local – There are large networking events organized by corporations that you can participate in. Usually, a fee and extensive travel is involved in these events. However, most writers live in a writer’s centric community – and have no idea. Websites, such as Meetup.com, are a fantastic way to meet others who are involved in the writing craft. Join. Attend. Make new friends!
5) Become a Con junkie – Conventions are an amazing way to meet new people. I cannot even begin to name the different types of conventions that exist for all genres and categories of writing. Do not pass up these opportunity to attend and meet others. As a bonus, attend as a guest author and speak on panels. Not only do you have the opportunity to sell your book (and do book signings), but you also have a chance to obtain more readers after they hear you speak on a panel.
6) Business Cards – Always have your business cards on hand. Business cards are the simplest way to pass on your contact information as they are reminders about who you are. These little cards are one of the best investments that you can make. For more information on business cards, see Robyn LaRue’s post 10 Uses for Author Business Cards.
7) Freebies – People love free stuff. Always keep something on hand that, when given away, helps to make you memorable. Kirsten Blacketer, at her recent book signing, gave away Kisses (of the Hershey variety – she is a romance writer after all). Freebies can be anything, such as candy to free book promos to cover art post cards. Make your freebie something memorable.
6) Follow-up – Always make sure you follow-up with anyone that you connect with if you have exchanged contact information. You never ever know where that connection could lead. There is always a chance that it could very well lead somewhere that is extremely beneficial to your writing career.
Some of you are going to read all of this and say Yes! Yes! Yes!, while others are going to go curl up in the corner and cry.
To all you introverted, shy writers out there – you must participate in networking. Trust me, I know all too well how difficult it is. It has taken me 10 years to come out of my shell, and even to this day I struggle with it (afterall, I am an extreme introvert). In fact yesterday evening, I saw a New York Times Bestselling Horror author sitting outside of the local coffee shop by himself, reading a newspaper, and I just walked by him with a smile and a quick ‘Hello’. I was too nervous and feared that I would have been intruding, so I just kept walking. I lost a perfect opportunity to connect with someone who writes in the same genre and has an exuberant amount of experience. Needless to say, I am still kicking myself.
If you are a shy writer, you just have to get over it and get your face out there. Yes, it is terrifying. Yes, you will be a nervous wreck. Yes, you will be worried about every single word that you utter. But you know what? Once it is over, you are done (for the time being) and you will be extremely happy with yourself. Not only will you have taken a huge step in your life and writing career, but you will have made a lot of new connections.
I cannot stress enough the importance of networking. Your authorship is your business and should be treated as such. No one gets to where they are without help from others. We all need support in order obtain our goals. Networking is the perfect opportunity to start building that support web.