“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” We know that quote from Sacred Scripture, but how does that apply to writers? It doesn’t really, but I’d like to use it as an analogy. Before the fishing rod, nets were used to gather great loads of fish; then sorted and separated by the fishermen. The load of fish depended on the size of the net—small net, small load; larger net yielded a larger load.
Networking is much the same. We begin small—our family and close friends. Branch out seeking new faces who might be interested in what we have.
We can consider two major types of networking–Business/Professional and Social.
Business/Professional networking is done through a valid e-mail address provided by you, strictly private for your place of business.
Salespeople must work to build their clientele—includes “cold calling” prospective clients—not an easy task, especially for introverts. But practice makes perfect. First, don’t concentrate on yourself, your shyness, your reluctance, your feelings. Concentrate on why you are approaching people—you have a wonderful product that you want to share because you want them to like your story as much as you do. Go where the people are—family, relatives, friends, fellow employees. Group meetings, such as writers groups, critique groups, church affiliations, friends of friends. School and city librarians will be glad to talk to you.
Writer’s Digest staff compiled a list of sources in their June 25, 2009 issue. They titled the article “A Writer’s Guide to Social Networking.”
Facebook—If you write in a particular genre, find groups who specialize in writing in the same genre. (Romance, mystery, historical fiction, historical mystery, etc.)
Found your own group. In May, 2004, Kay Sellers had a vision of a group of writers in our area who enjoyed writing, no matter what the genre, and spending time becoming skilled in all aspects of writing. East Texas Writers Guild became a reality, and is increasing in its membership each year.
Look for events to share with other writers. Book signings at a site connected with your genre. Check with your local library for gatherings where an author reads from his/her work; or a non-author reads from a novel, or nonfiction story, just for pure enjoyment. Perhaps this can lead to a discussion group, or even formation of a book club.
If you are a regular on Facebook, or other social network, update your profile often, so you don’t become shelved as “old news.” Other sites such as Goodreads, and Bookbaby feed your need for networking.
Of course, we have Amazon.com, Twitter and Linkedin. I think Amazon doesn’t need any encouragement for people to reference. Twitter is a great website for gaining followers. Just don’t use it for always posting a “buy my book” tweet. But every so often you can reach out and say something about your product.
Linkedin is a great website for developing your professional status, finding followers, and getting their endorsements of your skills. You are advised to highlight your achievements as a writer, ask for recommendations of these achievements from other Linkedin professional contacts.
The last item in the Writers Digest list tells you to link to your own websites, and blogs, and other sources of your work online. Post any events you are attending, books you have read, articles that may be helpful, research of subject matter about which you intend to write.
A serious “networker” will go where the people are—family, relatives, friends, your workplace. Group meetings, such as a writers group, critique group, church affiliations, friends of friends. School and city librarians. The doctor who treats you and the beautician you favor are two more sources who may allow you to display your works on consignment.
Look at your subject matter. If you write about ranching or farming, ask your local feed and seed store owner if you can put some books in his store for possible customers and offer him a percentage of your sales price. If you write about horse racing, find trainers, maybe owners who would be willing to talk to you about different aspects of racing and what is involved. My contact with a family who raise and train Thoroughbreds came through a fellow member of ETWG. I was able to go to their house, interview them on aspects of training horses for racing, including the “darker” side where steroids might be involved to give a horse an edge in the race. After the book was published, I returned to give them a copy. The gentleman told me he would read it to his grandchildren.Maybe they would talk about the book to their classmates and teacher.
Going online looking for veterinary clinics, because my horse in the story would sustain injuries, I needed to know how to write about the treatments. I found Colorado State University has an equine teaching program. I called the number and spoke to a woman who directed me to Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, Founder and Chair of the Orthopaedic Research Center. Through several phone conversations, I was able to learn much about his work as an equine specialist. One outstanding thing he told me was that he had operated on a horse that did go on to win the Kentucky Derby. I felt very privileged to have made his acquaintance, especially since he goes all over the world involved in consultations on treating horses, and performing surgeries in special instances.
What other media sources are available? I suggest TV, radio, press releases, interviews with reporters who work in print media.
Read the acknowledgements in books by your favorite authors—is there a name or names that you might be able to contact—especially if you are researching your subject? Several years ago I read a book written by the niece of the owner of Funnycide, a Derby winner. I wrote to ask if I could quote from her book and gave her specifics when I was writing Wind-Free. She wrote back and said yes, as long as I gave her credit.
When you sell a book, insert a bookmark with all your contact information listed. Ask that someone to write a review on Amazon for you. It doesn’t have to be lengthy.
Finally, keep a list of your contacts and the sources of information. You never know when you may need to use that again in your dealings with the media, in a follow-up interview for a new book– especially if that book is part of a series. A handwritten thank-you will let them know you really appreciated their time. A copy of the book wouldn’t hurt, either.