by Jane McBride Choate
Writers are constantly advised to network, to connect with other writers, editors, agents, and others in the industry. For many writers who are introverted (myself included), networking--putting ourselves out there--is not only difficult, it's downright painful.
We can take heart, though, in the knowledge that there are things we can do to ease the process. Making connections is a combination of knowing what you want and who you want it with.
To enrich your networking efforts, ask yourself these key questions:
- What do I want to learn from networking? Do you have a goal for your networking efforts? Do you want to meet an agent? Do you want to find other writers in your area to form a critique or support group? Your goals will dictate, to a large degree, the direction your networking takes you.
- Who am I trying to connect with? To answer this, ask yourself two more questions: What do I want from this connection and how I can make the connection? Once you’ve answered those, ask yourself, what can I give to earn this connection and keep it?
- What have been my results thus far? If your results haven’t matched your goals, can you determine what, if anything, you’re doing wrong? If you have a goal to connect with one writing professional every week and you fail to meet that, could it be because you are reluctant to leave your comfort zone? Identify a non-threatening venue to meet a new person. Volunteer at your writers’ group to judge a contest, give a workshop, or critique another writer’s first chapter.
- Who have I connected with, and what has it meant to me? In attending my first writers’ conference, I heard the advice that I would want to meet the “big names authors.” The fact is, those “big name authors” already had plenty of people dying to meet them. Instead, I focused on meeting other “newbies,” like myself. I made some lasting relationships and wonderful friends. Though I may see them only once a year at writers’ conferences, I cherish the opportunity to re-connect with these friends
- What am I trying to get out of networking and making connections? Once again, ask yourself some questions: Do you want to climb the next rung in your writing career? Do you want professional advice on advancing your career? Do you want an introduction to a certain agent or editor? Do you want to make a big sale?
- What can I give back? I’ve purposefully saved this for last as I believe this to be the most important of these questions. What can you give back to those with whom you hope to network? Giving back is not only good karma, it can also help you develop deeper and richer relationships. Some of my best friends are those who have asked for my help in different areas. As I’ve donated time to judge contests, I’ve met editors and agents. If you are comfortable with public speaking, offer to give a workshop or seminar. If you’re presenting a workshop, you have the opportunity to meet all those attending. At the very least, you can give them your contact information.
Where can you network? The obvious place is writers’ conferences, seminars, and workshops. Let’s take a look at some less obvious places:
- Other writers’ book signings. Book signings can be painful for a writer sitting alone, hoping someone, anyone, will stop by and talk. Having a friend or another writer there can ease the author’s jitters. In showing up, you can give support as well as meet readers.
- Library. Attend functions at your public library. Don’t limit yourself to those activities specifically targeted at writers. Is your library featuring a lecture on American quilts? Go. You are likely to meet talented artisans. Be sure to take your business card with you.
- Online. Do you have an online presence? You should. I write two daily blogs. In writing them, I have met individuals from all over the world. One day, I received a comment from a man who lives in the South Pacific. Would I have connected with him if I hadn’t written the blog? I doubt it.
- Write articles for publications. It’s great to contribute to writing periodicals, but don’t limit yourself to those. You can make valuable contacts writing for any number of publications. Share your knowledge.
- Become an expert on something. Being an expert gives you an opportunity to share what you know. People, including editors, start to think of you as the “go-to” writer when they need information about a certain subject.