NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
Before your book is published, get the connections rolling. 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. In cities like Las Vegas, where published writers and writing groups abound, the author is not the celebrity they are in a small town.
Merriam Webster’s Dictionary describes networking 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:
- There are various ways to build a network on the web. Set up your author page, and include your name in the URL if possible. Include everything a visitor would like to know about you like 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.
- If you are good at blogging, have a blog as well that makes subscribers and visitors feel like they know you. Make it conversational and not always about your books. Each of these should have a link to the others.
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.
- Add comments on the websites you visit. Quite often people you don’t know will add their comments to yours with the benefit that they have become aware of your name and what you do.
- Review the books of others in your genre. Give a fair evaluation because you should be reading what others in your field write.
Attend Conferences, Join Groups and Speak to Strangers
Don’t be shy about letting people know what you do. Use discretion so you won’t be 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, co-workers, 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.
I was at a basketball game in Portland, Oregon and saw the person next to me wearing a Lakers sweatshirt. Well, I’m from L.A. 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 spawns organizations, research some of them and attend meetings. Become involved and let it drop that you write books with a protagonist or focus on that field. This won’t work for everyone, but it is worth considering.
- Turn networking into connecting. Not everyone is a born networker. If the idea of breaking into groups of people you don’t know and immediately establishing a rapport makes your palms sweat 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. You may hate every minute, but 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 where half the people you meet are published writers, there is always a mystique attached to the fact that you have a published book.
- When the other person is an author. If the person says, “Oh, are you an author, too?” just smile and say yes and 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.
- Volunteer. 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 now 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 should be able 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 will be easy to understand, even for the beginner. Again, this is a way to give back while building networking contacts.
WRITERS TRICKS OF THE TRADE, soon to be a book of the same name, appears in the Las Vegas edition every Thursday and Los Angeles every Friday. The SPOTLIGHT feature with author interviews, organization overviews or event information appears in the Las Vegas edition every Tuesday and Los Angeles edition on Wednesday.
MORGAN ST. JAMES co-authors the award-winning comical crime capers of the Silver Sisters, with the latest one, Vanishing Act in Vegas, due out later this year. Morgan is a frequent speaker, panel member or moderator and presents writers’ and motivational workshops. She also has many short stories in publication as well as a pair of romantic suspense novels written as Arliss Adams.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit her websites www.morganstjames-author.com, www.silversistersmysteries.com and www.devils-dance.com.