Networking might just be the number one thing that authors dread. Most of us are introverts, so we find it hard to strike a conversation with that publisher or ask another author for feedback. Networking in the writing industry is not easy unless you know what to do.
As a general rule, networking in the writing industry is a must to get work published and reach the targeted audience. Successful networking includes asking questions, showing interest, and staying in touch after the initial contact. Offering something in return helps to boost the success rate.
Yes, you can do a fair share of writing in solitude. But without a network, you will never get your work out there. You need to talk to (proof)readers, agents, editors, publishers, and lots and lots more people.
So unless you want your work to lay in your desk drawer forever, you better get going. But no worries. You see, I am always nervous when it comes to networking, but I am also very well prepared. That wins me half the battle. And you can benefit from that too, by following some simple etiquettes. Here’s are a few do’s and don’ts.
1. Do ask questions
When I want to walk up to a person I admire or want to do business with, my pulse raises, my face flushes, and my mouth goes dry almost immediately. I shake and shiver as I extend my cold, sweaty hand and hope that the gesture will be returned. They look at me while I tell them who I am, and then they are often surprised when I ask them a question.
Asking questions is vital for good communication. Not only does it help you to gather information, but it also shows your interest. If you are genuine, it shows others that you can empathize. That makes people feel heard. Writer Dale Carnegie even advised to be a good listener and ask questions people love to answer to gain influence and befriend important people.
People love to talk. They love it when others show interest in them, and they love to help. So make sure your questions are in dept and personal. Sure, you can ask how a process works, but follow that up with a question on how it makes the person feel. What they prefer or what the funniest anecdote is regarding that topic.
While you listen, make sure you are not preparing your next question. It will make your mind drift, and people can see that. Ears open, mouth shut, brain quiet.
2. Don’t talk too much
While people love to talk and answer questions about themselves, they hate it when others keep talking about themselves uninvitedly. It gives a sense of egocentricity, which makes people withdraw quickly. It can also create the idea that you are trying to outsmart them, making them feel inferior.
It’s a bit tricky when it comes to networking because you want people to remember you. But here’s the amazing part. By not talking too much about yourself, you stand out from the crowd. People will remember you and want to get to know you better. So introduce yourself and your work briefly, and answer questions but try not to go on too long. Make it about the other person.
3. Have your elevator pitch prepared
An elevator pitch is a moment in which you can introduce yourself and what you do. It should be short, sassy, and to the point. It’s named after an elevator because it should not extend the time of an average ride. That’s a measly 20 to 30 seconds. After that, most people will lose interest. So make sure you make that good first impression and spark their curiosity.
When working on your pitch, keep in mind that every word has to count. Be clear about what you do, don’t linger or expand, leave out technical terms and always end with an open question. What does that look like?
Hey, my name is Maartje. I am the writer of the Dutch novel ‘Als het licht verdwijnt’, and I am currently working on my English works The Hunt and Killer ATM. I’ve noticed that your platform offers a lot to readers who like thrillers mixed with a bit of supernatural. Can you tell me what you are looking for in such a manuscript?
4. Don’t pitch at every function
I’ve been to a lot of writing functions, and there is always a person who pitches at the wrong time. For example, a man kept pitching his work during a masterclass of a bestseller author. He kept interrupting the writer to tell the room his views nonstop. The author handled it well, but everybody was visibly annoyed.
The rule of thumb is not to pitch yourself or your manuscript when the function is about somebody else. When you are at a book release party or a masterclass, it’s not your moment to shine. It also isn’t helpful to pitch your story to a publisher at a child’s book event. Sure you can chat people up and gather information, but make it about the author and not yourself. Wait until functions such as a networking event or writers’ day.
5. Do stay in touch
When you did manage to make that first contact, make sure to keep following up. Send the person of interest a message now and then. Again make sure it’s not about you, but about them. Ask them how they are doing, and if you have a few personal details about them, incorporate those. Hey John, hope you and the kids had a nice weekend? It just hits differently than Hey John, I am emailing you about my new story, doesn’t it?
Don’t overdo it, though. People in the writing industry tend to be extremely busy. Don’t flush their inbox with an email every other week. Listen to your instincts and watch their responses closely. Once every few months might be enough. Just make sure they won’t forget about you and always keep it amicable.
6. Don’t be salesy
There will be a moment during which you want to pitch your WIP. You might want an agent to take a look, a publisher to put it out, or an author to give you feedback. No matter the goal, make sure you are not becoming a pushy, slick salesperson.
People hate it when a product is forced on them. So don’t pitch in a way that forces your WIP down their throat, but be polite. Ask. You can tell them what you are working on and ask them if they might be interested in having a look.
Even better is to have them ask you. By giving a little less than most people would, you can pique their interest. I have been to a network function once, where there was pitching around with editors. Instead of giving them a full-blown play-by-play of my WIP, I just mentioned a few keywords that spiked their attention. Based on true events, a female serial killer, over a hundred murders. That’s all it took for the publisher to ask me to email her.
7. Be social
Besides events, networking in the writing industry also happens online. All it takes is for you to be a bit social. Admire a writer? Share some of their stuff and credit them. Write an article in which you quote them and then email them about it. You can always ask them to share it. You can try to hit them up with a question even.
Just do not place links to your work or sites on another person’s wall or social media page. That’s not cool. Again, pick the right place and moment to pitch yourself.
That’s all there is to it. Just be a decent human being. Don’t talk about yourself too much, but be attentive to the other person. Good luck!