In the initial post to this series, one of the items in the checklist involved networking with other authors. In a lot of ways, most of us do this through critique groups, conferences, meet-ups, and social media. Some of us don’t. I don’t participate in a critique group and haven’t in about 10 years. It’s not that I don’t want to, but there are a lot of reasons for it. Really, if I expect to be serious, none of the excuses are particularly good. In retrospect, if had I spent some time pushing Wine Bottles and Broomsticks through a critique circle, it would have been made a stronger product. The characters aren’t as good as they could be, and the plot could use a bit of patching. Not only that, there are a lot of things you can learn from other writers, even if it’s a better sense of what not to do.
The other aspect of this that I feel can be a little bewildering is trying to understand the publishing process better. I did spend a lot of time connecting with authors and researching this side, and if I were to start over, I’d do even more. Trying to connect with writers on social media can be a bit of a mixed bag. To start, my experience on Twitter and other social media platforms tend to stick to the writing side of the business, like characters, editing, motivation, and none-too little self-promotion. While this is great for that side of things, more detail and coaching is necessary for the business side. I mean, it does come up, and not infrequently, but you’ve got to ask for specifics to really get useful stuff. In my experience, authors help one another out.
The frustrating part of networking can be some groups miss the point a bit. I’m in a couple of Facebook groups where most of the time these groups wind up being: “Please give me advice on this cover/blurb,” or “I’m going to humble-brag about my sales.” When folks bring up nuts-and-bolts mechanical publishing stuff, they are often shut down with a “this is not what this group is for” or a “We’ve already covered this topic elsewhere on the group, go looking for it.” It’s a bit irritating and not particularly helpful. Not that the content or groups isn’t useful, it’s just very, very focused. When you’ve been turned off the group by thirty straight humble-brag posts, and start ignoring these groups, you’re potentially missing out on a valuable resource.
I think what I’m trying to say is: Yes, you’re going to get into groups and discussions that aren’t helping you at all. Maybe they’re even somewhat irritating, but don’t let that discourage you from connecting with other authors. One of the most valuable things I did leading up to the publication of Wine Bottles and Broomsticks was reaching out to ask authors what their experience had been and what they would recommend. If you want to know about keywords for Amazon – throw that question out to a group. If one group shuts you down, reach out to another. Frequently, someone will have a moment where they really want to pay something forward and will give you precisely the roadmap you need. This happened to me more than once, and it makes me want to reach out and help others in a meaningful way. Really, this is a community –a loose, disorganized community, but a community nevertheless. We all have to stick together and help each other out, and a lot of people feel that way.
I think my point is that before you publish –do this. Don’t just connect with fellow writers for a critique or editing, reach out for advice on all aspects from font choice to advertising tactics. Most importantly, keep in mind that other authors aren’t your audience, they’re your colleagues, and the sales pitches need to stay somewhere from minimal to 0 when reaching out. When you hit publish and begin letting folks know, they’re likely to lend you a hand getting the word out as you’ve probably done for them.
What’s been your experience networking? Leave a comment below.