Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"Like For Like" is Not a Good Strategy For Authors Trying to Network

Networking is the name of the game when it comes to being an author. Sure, you have to write good books, and you have to get them published, but who you know is a huge part of that process. The more editors, book reviewers, and other authors you know, the bigger your network grows, and the more options you have when it comes to your career. You need to get some more reviews for your latest release? Sharon knows some people at the site she used to work for who'd be happy to oblige. You have a project that can't seem to find a home? Steve knows a publisher who's looking for just the kind of book you've written. You're having a weekend giveaway? Irene has room for a guest post on her hugely popular book blog, so you can tell her readership about it to spread the word.

This is the easy part of the job, right here.
But how do you get that network? Especially if you don't know anyone right now who can introduce you to all their friends? Well, I'll tell you one way not to do it; liking other authors, publishers, etc. on social media with the expectation they'll like you back.

That Isn't How Professionals Do Things

Let me be clear, the idea that you could follow someone on social media, and that the person in question will return the favor, was once a common part of online etiquette. I say, "was once," because these days it would be like challenging someone to a duel because they insulted your mother; it would be ridiculous. Not only would no one take you seriously, but you'd probably end up being either punched in the head, or roundly ignored by all the folks not living in the 17th century.

Follow my author's page, you knave!
Unfortunately, this is a huge mistake a lot of authors make when they're starting out and trying to build their network. They find someone who is doing well (an author whose books they've seen, or a small publisher that's won some awards), and then they start following that person. Then they pitch a fit when, instead of immediately getting a re-follow, the author or publisher continues on as if it's business as usual. Because you might be some no-name, just-starting-out writer, but that's just rude!

Except that it isn't. That kind of behavior is the equivalent of guys who befriend women with the express purpose of trying to have sex with them, while claiming the whole time they're just there to be friends. Then, when the target of their affections "friendzones" them, they throw a tantrum because that's not how it's supposed to work!

All Right, Smart Guy, How Do I Grow A Network?

I'm glad you asked, bold italic text.

If you are a writer, and you want to grow a network of other professionals you can turn to for help, then you need to go out there and meet them. That means you need to go to genre and book conventions, volunteer to be part of writing events, and join social media groups and forums where other professionals come to talk. You need to introduce yourself, make friends, and if you're in meat space, hand out business cards. And if you really want to endear yourself to your new friends, follow the advice I gave in The One Phrase Every Author Needs to Know For Networking Success by offering to give these other authors some free publicity. A book review, an online interview, or something similar always earns you good will, and that can go a long way toward converting you from "some random person" into "part of my trusted network" in a big hurry.

You also need to write like a motherfucker.
When you start publishing regularly, something weird happens. Suddenly, you have all sorts of people sending you messages and inviting you to work for, and with, them. Maybe it's because the bigger your body of work is the more people see it, or because someone who publishes regularly is an appealing prospect, but whatever the reason, the more you produce, the more people will seek you out rather than the other way around.

This sounds strange, but I've found it to be true. Roughly half the authors I'm currently connected to added me to their friends' lists because we were mutually published in an anthology. A lot of the work that comes my way writing for RPGs finds me because my gaming blog Improved Initiative is regularly updated, and sees frequent spikes of popularity. If you have work on the market, and people see that work, then they'll come to you.

So get back to work!

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