Monday, January 14, 2013

Networking for Writers: Yes, It's Who You Know

This article includes tips for expanding the network of people who can help you find an agent or publisher, increase your pool of potential readers, or make money with your writing. We're talking about connecting with real people not just adding more Twitter followers who couldn't care less what you do.

Full disclosure: I'm a writer and an introvert, so these suggestions -- which are commonsense to sales people and extroverts -- were not commonsense to me.

1) Stalk People Online

Found someone interesting or influential on a Website or in a social media group?
- Connect with them on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and other places they hang out.
- Like their posts, retweet their Tweets, comment on their discussions.
- If they're selling something inexpensive, buy it.
- Do this over a period of months, then ask for their help politely and directly. (See "Asking for Help" below.)
- Help you could ask for: posting or tweeting a link to your blog or about your book to their followers, advice on a publishing problem, a referral to someone they know who could help you.
*Real World Example: I haven't tried this yet, but I've had it done to me -- and I was happy to help.

2) Talk about Your Book When You're Out and About - in the Flesh or Online

*Real World Example: I belong to several Meetup groups that I attend for social activities.
- In my Meetup profile, I mention my book, which is supposed to be funny, and my Meetup tagline is the "The Comedian."
- A woman who is into books and reading, contacted me. We e-mailed and met for drinks -- we're just friends -- but she introduced me via e-mail to two published writers she knows. I spoke to them both on the phone. One wants to see the first five pages of my novel.

3) Host an Event and Invite Influential People to Speak or Read

*Real World Examples:
- A friend who is looking for an agent, is hosting a reading event. He invited a lot of big-name local novelists. He will also read at his event. If the authors like his stuff, they may offer to help him find an agent.
- In Boston, I co-host a monthly happy hour for local writers called Media Chowder. Since I'm a co-host, people know me or want to know me. A published author who came to a few events would e-mail me periodically and ask how my book was coming a long. One day, out of the blue, he offered to forward my query letter to his agent who said she couldn't sell my current book but would happy to look at future stuff.

4) Asking for Help

- E-mail etiquette: Ask politely and directly for what you want. Don't write a long-winded puffy letter full of compliments, and then ask for a favor as if it was an afterthought.
- Don't do someone a favor, and then immediately asking for a favor -- it's tacky.
- A great piece on this topic from writer Sarah Manguso
- A great book on this topic: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. (Don't laugh: I've taken the a Dale Carnegie course and read this book -- best plain-English advice I've ever gotten.)

5) A Word about Agents

- Authors are very proprietary about their agents and many will not offer to connect you to their agent.
- Personally, I would never ask for a referral to an author's agent. I'd mention that I'm looking for an agent and if they offer, great.

6) Make a Deal: More on Agents

- I know several writers who are also looking for an agent. I like their work and they like mine. We have an agreement: If one of us finds an agent, we'll ask our agent to read the other writers' query letter.

7) What Goes Around Comes Around

- Some of the people who helped me are either not looking for help or are in fields in which I can't do anything for them.
- But when someone contacts me and is polite, I try to help them. (I have also learned to say 'no' to people who are just looking for a lot of free advice.)
*Real world example: Several times I've been contacted on Linked In by people looking for an editor. At the time, I didn't have time. But I referred the people to people I knew -- one whom I had met on Linked In. The results: Two people I knew now have consulting gigs with Linked In connections.
*A number of people, noted earlier in this post, have helped me without me even asking.

8) Always Be Closing But Don't Be a Jerk.


More Book Marketing

- How Many Agents Should You Query? 50? 150?

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*Attribution for networking image at top of post: This was a public domain image I found on Pixabay.

Image attribution: I couldn't locate creator of this image, but here's where I got it.