Networking is a word that holds profound importance for anyone marketing anything. From the insurance salesperson vying for your dollar to the author boosting sales, networking is essential.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes it as a noun meaning “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”
For an author this means building a network of authors, other publishing professionals, readers, fans and people who still haven’t discovered that you even exist. In today’s lexicon, networking also relates to building a platform.
Building a platform
Most writers already do many of the things necessary to build platforms. We just may not have lumped them together in a box with that label. Here are some activities that build a platform while networking:
Personal websites: There are various ways to build a network on the web. Set up your author page, and if possible include your name in the URL. List everything a visitor would like to know about you such as classes you teach, articles you’ve published, public speaking topics you offer along with the standard stuff like bio, links to your books, etc.
Consider setting up a special website for your books or for a new book about to be released, then keep it active.
If you are good at blogging, set up a blog as well and add content that makes subscribers and visitors feel like they know you. Make it conversational and not always about your books. Your website and blog should have links to each other.
Visiting the sites of others:
Network with other authors and organizations as a visiting blogger. Try to make the guest blogs informative without constantly repeating the same things for every blog you visit.
When you visit the websites of others take the time to leave a comment. Quite often people you don’t know will add their comments to yours with the benefit that they have now become aware of your name and what you do, and you have supported another author.
You should be reading what others in your field write. When you review books in your genre, always give a fair evaluation. However, if you didn’t like the book, be careful not to be snarky about it or post mean comments.
Attend conferences, join groups and speak to strangers
Don’t be shy about letting people know what you do. Use discretion so you aren’t perceived as a braggart, but always have a bookmark or high-quality business card ready to hand to new acquaintances at your church or temple, to co-workers, and even the server in a restaurant or the person you sit next to on a plane. If they buy and like your book, they are likely to tell their friends about the author they met.
Here is an example. I was at a basketball game in Portland, Oregon and saw the person next to me wearing a Lakers sweatshirt. Well, I was from L.A. at the time, so I struck up a conversation. When the woman asked what I did, I said I was in Oregon editing a mystery book in a series I write with my sister.
That led us to talk about the books. I gave her a bookmark and she sent me an email a few weeks later saying she bought one of my books for her mother who loved it and was now telling all of her friends about the author her daughter met at a basketball game.
What does your protagonist do for a living or hobby? This is a little easier to identify for non-fiction writers, but if your books involve protagonists in a profession or hobby that generates organizations, research some of them and attend meetings. Become involved and let it drop that you write books with a protagonist or focus in that particular field. This won’t work for everyone, but it is worth considering.
Turn networking into connecting.
Attend functions and meetings. Not everyone is a born networker. If the mere thought of breaking into groups of people you don’t know and immediately establishing a rapport makes your knees turn to jelly and your heart do a tap dance, dial it back a bit. All you have to do is show up at an event. Strike up a conversation with the person who is sitting or standing next to you. Sure, it’s possible you will hate every minute simply because it’s not your thing. On the other hand you might find some people you really like. Ease into the conversation about what you do. Unless you live in towns or cities like I do where half the people you meet are published writers, there is always a mystique attached to the fact that you have a published book.
If the person says, “Oh, are you an author, too?” just smile and say yes, then proceed to ask about the other person’s books. It is always good to share ideas and experiences, and you never know who they know that you would like to meet.
Many literary events around the country put out calls for volunteers. If you plan to attend, consider also volunteering to help in some capacity. This will put you right in the middle of the action, bring you into contact with the organizers, give you the good feeling of helping, and you never know what type of contacts might result.
Look for opportunities to do public readings. This is the time to step forward whenever you have the opportunity. Learn to read with passion and feeling rather than a dull, monotone. Look at your audience frequently and project your voice as well as you possibly can. Smile often. After the reading, depending upon the situation, be very approachable and always be armed with bookmarks or other promotional material.
Share what you’ve learned.
This is a personal comment. I give workshops at conferences and meetings covering topics I knew nothing about when I began writing fiction. Tap into your teaching or speaking mode. This won’t be for everyone because you’ll need the ability to project enthusiasm and, of course, knowledge about your topic. Think of how hard it might have been for you to learn certain things. Simplify your information so that it is easy to understand, even for the beginner. This is a way to give back while building networking contacts. I love it when someone who heard me speak tells me they really learned from my presentation.
|Morgan St. James|
Former interior designer, MORGAN ST JAMES lives in Las Vegas, is on the board of Writers of Southern Nevada and belongs to multiple writers’ groups. In addition to the Silver Sisters series, she also collaborates with other writers in addition to writing her own novels and short stories. Morgan currently has 14 books in publication plus over 600 articles about the business and craft of writing, with more slated for 2015.
She frequently appears on the radio, author’s panels and is an entertaining speaker. Published short stories include contributions to two Chicken Soup for the Soul books, many anthologies including the single author anthology The Mafia Funeral and Other Short Stories, . Her workshops are presented at writers’ conferences, writers groups and other venues.
In November, 2014 she and true crime author Dennis N. Griffin launched the Writers’ Tricks of the Trade Show on Blog Talk Radio, and she is also the publisher of the Writers Tricks of the Trade eZine.
Visit www.morganstjames-author.com, http://morganstjames.blogspot.com. http://silversistersmysteries.blogspot.com, http://writerstricksofthetraderadio.blogspot.com