One thing that I notice as I work towards success in my career is that I meet a lot of writers in varying stages of their own journey within the business. Sometimes they are just beginning, trying to figure out whether or not writing is really for them, whether it is an actual passion and goal versus a hobby, and some of them are much farther along--I've had some of them on this blog for interviews.
What always strikes me about most of the really successful ones are how easy they are within themselves, which seems daunting for a good many of us who get into this profession. Let's be honest: we wouldn't be writing if we didn't have some sort of pain or problem we are trying to work out for ourselves, as they inhabit our stories (at least the good ones.) But one big problem I see often is that writers have no clue how to engage with other writers. Networking is an important skill to have in your toolbox, so to speak, because not only does it help you make friends, but you learn from others about The Craft AND The Business. Networking is essential for success in publishing.
So, in a relatively short list that could go on for many, many, many (and I mean MANY pages), here are some simple DO'S and DON'TS when it comes to writer networking. I might include an example here and there but as always, if you have questions, please ask.
- DO meet people.
Most authors at conventions, signings, and events are there to meet the audience and communicate with them. Just because they are sitting behind the table doesn't mean they are out of reach from you, or that they are too busy selling books to not talk. They do want to talk to you, as being at that table can be a lonely business, and the shot of meeting a new friend is always an opportunity worth having. The best thing you can do is walk up and go "Hi, my name is _______" and take it from there.
- DON'T monopolize their time.
While it is fine to say "Hi" and introduce yourself, it is important to remember that the people working their tables are there to work. If you aren't going to buy anything, if there is a line, or if there is something you want to speak to them about involving writing that doesn't suite the area you're in, pick a different time.
- DO take interest in their work.
One thing that I see a lot of beginning (and honestly, experienced) writers do when they meet other writers is try to get something out of them for nothing. That's not fair, nor does it build the beginnings of a relationship where that writer will feel like they can trust you. For example, if you are like me and read Epic Fantasy, and you are about to meet another Epic Fantasist who has developed themselves a name in the business, then ask to talk about what they wrote. AND LISTEN. Maybe you'll find a new author you can read and learn from.
- DON'T talk down to them.
I see this happen so often, and it really turns me off to those writers who try to sell their work or explain how "great" or "original" it is to someone who has always ready proven their worth in the business. It is akin to going to an art show, meeting the featured artist, and then dropping in the middle of the conversation "oh, your paintings, but I do mine in oils. It is a much better medium." I've had this happen to me at conventions when no-names (which I still count myself among) find out that I have been published multiple times and write traditional fantasy. It is weird to have someone praise you mockingly about writing a genre that is "quaint." It is disrespectful, and it hammers home the point about a truth in publishing: everyone talks to each other. If you want to create for yourself a bad reputation among authors who talk to their agents, editors, and publishers, do this. See how far you go.
- DO talk to them about similar interests, even if they aren't directly involved with your work. Sometimes you not only end up making a contact, you also find a like-minded individual who shares similar interests, and similar interests again lead to friendships. That is the one nice thing about publishing: we aren't really "competing" with each other, so there are ample opportunity to make new friends, and that is not only good for your business, but for your soul as well.
- DON'T aggravate people
This one is really a catch-all for a lot of things. Sometimes there are people you meet in the business that you just don't get along with and the best advice is to not engage them in negativity. That means keeping your mouth shut, your ears and eyes open, and being careful with how you present yourself. Remember, people talk, so always try to maintain some sort of professional image. This includes talking, working, and dealing with people you may not like.
In addition to this (which is rare for a list like this, but important), DON'T badger people. I have seen friends of mine who aren't very big at all constantly go and bother someone because they think they can talk or flirt their way into being liked enough for a deal. It is hard watching such silliness, because you realized how self-aware some people aren't. The important thing is to adhere to the first DO: Meet People, while adhering to the first DON'T--let them have their space and time to work, if they are working. If they want to hang out, they will let you know.
- DO take something
A bookmark, a sticker, something. You don't have to pay for it, but taking a bookmark or a card while offering a kind farewell is better than simply staring at their table, not making eye contact, and then leaving without a word. Yes, I've seen that. Taking something is at the very least a nice gesture in the way that it shows that you saw something they had and might check it out again in the future. Small kindnesses do wonders.
- DON'T Get hella drunk, y'all
Seriously. People will remember you as the naked guy or the dude that shit in the hotel pool before they remember your accolades (I'm neither of these individuals, by the by.) That memory carries with you until you're dead.
I want to wish you all a happy new year, and of course, if you think there is something that should be on this list that I haven't included, by all means leave a comment!
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Stay safe and stay tuned from some 2015 news!