As an author your instincts may often be to hole up with your laptop in a den of coffee, piles of paper, chocolate hobnobs and chewing gum until your book is finished. But networking to build your audience and promote your self-published book is likely to give you a much greater chance at success once the book is published. We decided to put together a brief beginner’s guide to networking for the shyest and most uncomfortable out there.
WHERE TO START
Getting out to writers groups, conferences, talks and specialist events related to the genre of your book, whether in a real or virtual sense, can be a great way to make connections which may well help you down the line (see our list of useful places below). You may be able to get input to help you with the editing your book, make links with independent bookshop owners, set up alliances with other authors to do some joint promotions or find inspiration for your work.
“But I’m rubbish at that networking thing – I never know what to say”
You may think that you’re no good at networking, and it is a skill which not everyone nails straight away, but with practice you can get better in no time. Here’s how:
In person: This may be second nature to some, but for others, it can be the most daunting part. In my experience, the key is to stop worrying about looking silly and just give it a go. If you decide to talk to someone you don’t know anything about (at a writers conference, say) try to bank a few questions in your mind that are good conversation starters- what do they think about such and such a topic/author/book etc.? Even a straight out “so what brings you here then?”/ “what are you working on?” can break the ice. My backup is to tell someone I like their shoes/clothes/dog if I’m really stuck and see if that gets me anywhere. If someone clearly isn’t interested in talking to you, don’t take it personally. Politely say that it’s been nice to meet them and move on. Don’t feel you have to feign the sudden onset of illness, chase after canapés or do the classically inelegant move of downing your drink and declaring you have to go back to the bar. Don’t be deterred – make it your goal to talk to at least 3 new people at any event.
If you want to target particular people always start with a compliment or a question that shows you have paid attention to their ideas/work. Don’t go straight in asking for anything, but see it as an opportunity to learn and enjoy the conversation. You can always attempt to follow up your conversation with an email or phone call at a later date.
Online: Keep communications brief if you are emailing. Offer them something if you can, and rather than sending more emails if they don’t respond, see if you can phone. Then, if you have reminded them about your email and they still don’t answer, you might have to step back and focus your efforts elsewhere. Twitter is also great for making connections. See our article here for advice on Twitter use and etiquette.
DON’T MAKE IT ALL ABOUT YOU
When we’re nervous some of us feel the need to fill awkward silences talking about ourselves. This can be a bit boring for other people so try not to bombard someone with facts about yourself and your work, without asking them questions first. Networking is all about two way conversations. Getting to know someone and helping them is far more likely to help you figure out whether they can help you and, crucially, increase the likelihood that they will actually help you/buy your book. This very useful article gives a detailed breakdown on how to make networking more productive and less…well, awkward.
If you have had a productive conversation with someone, make sure you swap details of some kind so that you can properly follow up opportunities. Though not particularly high tech, business cards can still be handy – but try and ensure that you put more than the bare minimum on them so there is something that will help people remember the face that goes with the card. Putting your CompletleyNovel web addres will also help them find you.
STORE UP CONTACTS
Someone who seems interesting but not completely connected to your goals may be helpful to you in the future. You can ask if they have a website/blog you can look at, if they’re on Twitter or will be at any upcoming events. You never know when you might want to get in touch. (And while you are there, you can start following us on Twitter – @CompletelyNovel )
DON’T GET TOO DRUNK!
Whilst alcohol is the great social lubricant, you probably don’t want to be remembered as the person jabbering incoherently with a wild look in their eye. (Having said that, I did once meet someone who managed to get a job in journalism after throwing up on an editor’s shoes, but I think that was probably an exception to the rule!).
Please post any of your author networking hints and tips here. Make 2012 the year you build your network!
Places to go
Meetup a number of different groups meeting
The Literary Consultancy
The Free Word Centre
Festival season is coming up – Hay, Cheltenham, and about 5 million others.
See aslo these articles for tips on promoting your book:
Get your book in the press without sending press releases
How to build a buzz around your book
How to market your book
How Twitter can help self publishing authors
Great post! I’m doing most of the online networking, but it’s good to have someone else’s take on it. :-)
I always go into a networking situation with the intention of discovering and meeting interesting people. Often the conversation will swing around to what you are doing at some point. If all goes well I come away with contacts for a bunch of interesting people who I can get in touch with later. I think it is those later conversations where the actual business takes place.
I find that if you go with the intention of broadcasting what you are doing and pushing people to do something for you at that moment you end up pushing interesting people away.
Yes, exactly. It’s about building a relationship, which engenders trust as well as potential interest. Luckily, I had already built an online platform for my other business, and made a number of friends sharing the same interests.
Since that business and the concepts/themes of my first book overlap a fair bit, these contacts were happy and enthusiastic about joining me for the novel projects. The best relationships have taken several years to build! :-)
Helpful article for the uninitiated, like me!