I used to hate the idea of networking – to me, it was just another buzzword, and involved people having drinks, swapping business cards and earnestly talking at each other about their work, without really connecting personally.
In my early writing years I didn’t understand how this could possibly help me. Isn’t writing all about working on your own, getting the thoughts out of your head and onto the page? Hopefully in a form that actually communicates those thoughts to other people.
So I spent too many years not going to events or launches or workshops. Strangely, that was despite the fact that I’d spent several years studying Professional Writing and Editing part-time, and enjoyed learning from other students as well as the lecturers. I just couldn’t seem to force myself to attend things during the time when I might have been relaxing or, well, actually writing.
But then a few years ago I took the dive into various forms of social media, mainly to promote my YA book – Twitter, a Facebook writer page, Tumblr, this blog, and then Instagram. Slowly and awkwardly I made friends with other writers and YA readers in the ether, even joining in a competition for ‘first chapters’ and a Twitter chat for YA fans. Then I ventured out into the world of book launches and a few events, and started meeting some of those people in real life.
Networking involves social contact with strangers, talking and making sense, and probably trying to juggle a glass of wine and a cupcake covering in a disturbing amount of squishy icing, all without looking like someone just out of a hundred days of isolation.
That pretty much sums up an author’s life – and says loads about why not all of us are fabulous networkers. However, the good thing about getting together at events is sharing stuff with people who quite likely enjoy the same stuff.
Social media is the stepping stone for this. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tentatively approached someone who looks familiar, because they have their photo on Twitter/Insta/Facebook, and we’ve exchanged handles and then proper names if necessary. I now always introduce myself as “Carolyn Gilpin – carolynswriting” and 95% of the time get the response “of course, yes, we follow each other!”
Being quite shy, I used to have my book cover as my profile pic, until a lovely author (Sarah Epstein) suggested I change to a photo of myself, to make it easier for people to recognise me. I finally felt confident enough to do so, and it’s been nice.
I have found that despite my shyness, clumsiness and ability to embarrass myself with amazing ease (*note to self – make sure your phone’s camera flash is turned OFF when taking photos of authors while sitting in the front row at a bookshop talk), I CAN get out there and make contacts and even friends.
This has led to great exchanges of book recommendations, writing tips, publishing tips, all sorts of handy information and juicy gossip, and in some cases friendships which I hope will last forever.
It sometimes leads to people searching out your writing, and even to those tiny, sometimes unrecognisable connections which may end up with you chatting to your future publisher/editor/agent 🙂
Now in my head I see spiderwebs of connections with people dotted here and there, all connected in different ways to various people.
Hopefully these people aren’t all injecting an anaesthetic venom into their contacts/prey then sucking the life-juice out of them! (Okay, there might be a few like that, but I digress)
Ha ha, no, hopefully these people are having a nice chat about shared likes and learning new things, making new connections. So next weekend I’ll be heading to a free event at a local library with four Aussie YA authors, one of whom I’m already friends with, because we met via Instagram, then introduced ourselves at a book launch, and now we catch up at events and for coffee and chats about writing and life in general. How good is that? 🙂