I went into LTUE this year with the goal to feel inspired and learn more about my craft. That led me to a lot of mostly empty, odd ball panels on things like “Weather Systems” and “Building Seaworthy Boats”. They were so much fun, filled my inspiration cup especially since my big WIP is on a mythology-based fantasy where angry Gods set their fury lose on an island with terrible storms and diseases. However, it was the “Finding Your Audience” panel with authors Josi Russel, M. Tod Gallowglas, and Howard Taylor that filled my Writing Craft cup.
I could write several blogs just on this one panel- it was so packed with wonderful information. Josi, Gallowglas and Howard were a great match who often saw things similarly, but with such different backgrounds in the field of writing and storytelling, each brought a fresh perspective to the table, no matter where the conversation veered off.
One aspect of building an audience they really dug into was networking. In the writing world it often feels like we live in groups- YA writers, Mg writers, horror writers, fantasy writers, publishers… I could go on. When you find your niche and start networking within that group you learn very quickly that those people are key in helping you hone your work for the appropriate audience or will be vital in helping promote your book to that audience. This just one more reason why networking as an author is important. Unfortunately, when many writers are introverts or unexperienced, the whole prospect of networking can be overwhelming at best, and it can stand in the way of reaching our potential at worst. Each of these authors have a different recipe for a successful networking experience.
“Talk to the workers, talk to the people, talk to the owners as you’re enjoying your time there… Once you have a good relationship then you can go for signings, you can sell your books
Josi Russel, science fiction author of the Caretaker Chronicals, delved into how bookstores can be the perfect opportunity for networking. There isn’t an author or writer who doesn’t wish they could live in a bookstore- we spend so much time there. “Talk to the workers, talk to the people, talk to the owners as you’re enjoying your time there… Once you have a good relationship then you can go for signings, you can sell your books” Josi Russel
These are genuine connections developed with people who have similar interests. Josi’s formula is stranger first, friend next, and potential advertisement last. The people we talk to for the sake of “networking” don’t have to solely be ins to our next book deal, or our first paycheck. In fact, this mind set will more than likely leave you looking foolish and greedy. When we instead seek to make valuable genuine friendships first, and contacts second, people will go much farther to help us with our goals because they want to, not because you’ve asked them to, and you will feel the same about them. Symbiotic relationships make the world go around.
Outside of bookstores, Josi Russel also pointed out that our writing groups, beta readers and alpha readers will also become invaluable relationships. Pick your writing group with care and cultivate the relationships within it- they will be a net that keeps you afloat through all stages of your writing career. These will be your strongest cheerleaders. Be sure to return the favors to readers who have taken the time to search the depths of your unfinished manuscript.
You will fail, but you will not fail every time
Howard Taylor, cohost of the Writing Excuses Podcast, web cartoonist, and author of the Schlock Mercenary books adds a recipe of his own: Failure once does not mean failure every time.
“Approaching authors at conventions who you don’t know well but you know their work and you want to introduce yourself is a risk. You have to take risks to network but be prepared for it not to go well. You will fail, but you will not fail every time”
Those are very realistic, yet comforting words reminding us that networking is not an easy life choice. Talking to people who have been “talked to” by people just like you all day long might not go well for you. It might, though. You should be willing to do two things:
...know your readers as people, engage with them, have conversations with them, ask them questions in person, on social media, or on your blog.
M. Todd Gallowglas, performer and author of Halloween Jack, added that you should strive “to know your readers as people, engage with them, have conversations with them, ask them questions in person, on social media, or on your blog”
There is no room for The Wizard of Oz persona in this business. Our readers are going to connect a lot more with the man/woman behind the curtain. So Gallowglas’ advice to get out from behind the curtain and interact with those people really hits home. In writing advice blogs all over the internet the sentiment sounds that blogs cannot be places where you talk at your audiences any more. They must be a platform for conversations and the exchange of ideas. Learn how to ask questions, notice which questions get people talking the most- this will help you find out what your audience is interested in. Then with your work, your social media posts, and your blog cultivate those kinds of conversations. Maybe, instead of just talking about your book, talk to people about what other books they have read, and why they liked or disliked it. Pick their brains on topics that are meaningful to them and work on listening to understand. This desire to connect with people in a very genuine way will translate well in the artistic and the business side of your craft.
This Panel had so much to offer, it really breaks my heart that I can’t sit in on it again, but I’m excited to cook up something great with the recipes for networking that Josi Russel, Howard Taylor and M. Todd Gallowglas brought to the conversation. I’m excited to know that success can be found in cultivating genuine friendships, that spending more time bookstores can only help me, and that I can give myself a little break from worrying that the last conversation I had didn't go as well as I had hoped.
There are plenty of conferences to attend if you’d like to have a wonderful experience of your own. You can find one near you by checking out THIS POST. I would love to hear your favorite take-aways from the last conference you went to in the comments below.
It's been fun talking with you!
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.