This phrase has been in use for over a century, and the sentiment has probably been around ever since society grew to the point it became impossible to know every person in your village by name and face. Some authors get to the top of the pile because they worked hard, wrote really great books, and they had enough zeitgeist magic to get and keep a loyal following. Authors who stay on top, the ones who never lack for buzz and who seem to always have the support of other people in the industry, do something over and above all that; they network.
|Pictured: A Successful Career, In Abstract|
Yes, but over and above those things there is a single phrase you need to use (and live by) in order to build your network. What is that phrase?
Would You Like Some Free Promo?
That's it. Like I said in How To Get Your "Big Break" As An Author one of the most important things you can do is reach out a helping hand to other people. If you meet another author, ask them if they're looking for reviews for their book, or if they'd like to be interviewed on your blog, Youtube channel, podcast, (seriously, you should have at least one of these options on hand) etc. If you find a cool business you like and you want to get on the owner's good side then post a review of their products. Even a little shout out (like telling you to check out Obscure Belts, a really unique belt maker that I met at C2E2 this year. Seriously, check them out and Like them on Facebook) can mean you've just made a friend.
|You know you want to know how to open The Enigma.|
You don't need to command the attention of a huge cult of followers for this strategy to work either; you just need to be willing to extend a hand. In fact if you add on the caveat of, "I don't have much of an audience, but what I do have I'll gladly use," you're even more likely to engender goodwill. What you're really saying is I'm putting myself out there for you, because I think more people should know about what you're doing.
That's a powerful statement, and it's one that will turn you from some guy at a convention to my new best friend in a big hurry.
Keep It Calm, Chill, and Professional
While this strategy is a great way to expand your network in a big hurry, you have to be aware of when it won't work. For example, people who are already famous (Your Jim Butchers, George R. R. Martins, and Margaret Weises, to name a few) already have plenty of fame and promotion. It can't hurt to offer a little more, but it might seem like they're doing you the favor rather than the other way around.
Also, tune-in to social queues. If someone is hedging, or you feel like they're trying to decline your offer without being rude, give them an out. Not everyone is going to give you the big smile and hearty handshake combo that usually accompanies a genuine offer of aid. Generally speaking if you're holding out a hand to someone, and that person doesn't immediately put a business card in it, it's best to tip your hat and walk away.
Making this kind of offer still leaves people with a positive impression of you. Even if the initial response is a, "no, thank you," that same person might contact you later to see if your offer still stands. And, most importantly, when you help enough people they'll be willing to return the favor. That means when your next book comes out you might have a bevy of bloggers, authors, podcasters, and general people in the industry who are willing to hold up your book and yell, "hey, you should all check this out!"
You can't buy help like that.
As always thanks for stopping in for this week's Business of Writing piece, and if you'd like to help support me and my blog just go to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page and become a patron today! If you want to make sure you're getting all of my updates you can follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and yes, even on Twitter.