Saturday, August 28, 2010

Don't Just Sit There -- Network!

Over the course of my life, my father, while he was alive, tried to give me advice about certain things. Most of it made no sense to me; however, one thing he told me about looking for work that has stuck with me was, "You've got to sell yourself."

At the time I had an immediate reaction of "Blah! That sounds awful." I didn't say that to him but I thought it and spent many years giving very bad interviews because I ignored that advice.

In the world of writing and publishing this advice is even more true. You've got to sell yourself and your work or you go nowhere. There are many ways to do that, but one of the most effective is to network with other writers and the people who can publish your work.

These days networking is easier than at any time in the past. Social sites, such as Facebook, make it easy to connect to thousands of people. You, as a writer, should get in the habit of connecting to some number of people in a given week. How many is enough? Hard to say and, since some sites put up blocks if you try to connect with too many people too quickly to guard against sexual predators and others with less than honorable intentions, you probably want to start small and connect with two to three new people a week. Look at their online profiles, see what they post. Respond to the post, get to know them.

To some this will seem like an invasion of privacy to the person you are connecting to. But they can reject the connection so it isn't really. Others may say, 'I'm prepared to network once I have something to sell.' Let me suggest that a good network is as important (or in some ways more important) than the stories you are writing. 

If that thought strikes you as odd, think about it for a minute. What is the function of your network? Answer: it is there to support you, just as you support the people in your network. The support comes in several ways. For example, it may come when you hit an issue in your writing or it may give you some leads for new markets that open. Often it will spark interesting discussion points about writing. But primarily if they are there to support you when you sell something, they will buy your book, or electronic magazine with your story in it, just as you should to the same when they sell something.

I'm sure some people don't like that idea because it means the only reason I am connecting with people is so I can sell them something. That's not entirely true. As I said, you want to get to know them personally. You want to get to know the people you connect with and support them in lots of ways that don't involve selling anything to anyone. You want to make them friends. Once you've done that, then the rest should happen naturally. I fully expect that whenever my books go on sale that my friends, my real friends, will go out and buy a copy. Some may read it, some may not. But they will buy a copy and that's the important part. Will I ask my network to buy my books? Sure, of course, I'd be stupid not to, but I will ask only once and then as politely as possible because I know what an enormous favor they are doing for me.

Of course, that's the theory of how it should work. Some people won't want to make friends with you; they just want to connect to you so they can sell to you. So be it. That's their choice. Others will try to get whatever they can from you and ignore your selling efforts to them. That's their choice too. But I think these people forget about human nature. I'm far more likely to help and support people who help and support me. It's like the song says: 'Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could'. 

That may sound hard and cruel but in my opinion, that's the way it is. So if you've been content to sit and write and let the world go by, get up and get out there. Network!

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