Guest Blog-Louise Bohmer! The Importance of Networking

Posted: September 10, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

When I got back into writing over seven years ago, networking was the last thing on my mind, and the last thing I wanted to do. Yet I’d soon enough learn it was an inevitable and valuable tool in publishing, particularly in the small communities inhabiting dark fiction genres.

Sullenly at first, I signed up to a yahoo horror writers group and a forum or two. I admit I’m not a people person. On my best days, I’m distrustful of humanity as a whole (but have great faith in the individual), and I get tongue tied when nervous. Such an attractive combination.

But this was from behind the safety of the keyboard. I had a barrier to tuck behind while I quietly surfed the boards. I’m far more skilled with words when they flow via the keyboard rather than from my lips. Today, I can see what an integral part of my life networking has become.

Once you make the decision to publish your work, consciously or not, you’ve made the decision to network. For every story you sell, for every book deal you sign, you’ll have to communicate with at least one to three people before the story sees brick and mortar or cyber shelves. There’s an editor you’ll have to work with, a publisher you’ll have to communicate with, and most publishers today expect the writer to get out there and promote their work. There’s a lot more to writing than the actual writing, and working with people is a big part of this industry.

Welcome to the world of the writer. It isn’t an easy one. You’ll be expected to deal with many different personalities over the course of your journey—some grating, some delightful. But every person you meet in the business will teach you something, even if the lesson is an example of what you don’t want to be.

Networking is an essential key to your success in publishing. Of course, you have to have the talent to go with it, but if you don’t get out there and share that talent—show others you possess it—how is anyone ever going to know you exist? Go join a few writing communities, check out Storytellers Unplugged, and absorb the knowledge presented. Check out the social sites—Twitter, Facebook, My Space, Ning—and join some. But enter social sites with the caveat: use in moderation. Don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal. Networking is important, but writing is what brought you here in the first place.

When networking online, don’t forget to use netiquette. Be courteous. Be respectful and polite. Once you feel comfortable interacting within a community, introduce yourself. Don’t just chime in on a topic because you can. Sometimes the best way to network, particularly when you’re new, is to just listen and get a feel for the crowd. Don’t speak up simply to be heard.

Networking is a great way to discover what markets are writer friendly, and what markets to avoid. Sharing inside information with other writers keeps you up to date on which publishers aren’t paying, which markets are communicative, and which are not. Networking can help you streamline your options, in a sea of small presses where fifty percent won’t live to their first birthday. It can help you discover who wants to nurture their writers and who doesn’t.

From personal experience, networking can lead to jobs. Develop a solid reputation for quality work delivered on deadline, make contacts, and you’ll have options once your freelancing CV is ready to send out. Word travels fast in the small press. Publishers who want an editor they can trust often turn to contacts for tips on available freelancers. Same holds true with writing. Editors ask questions. They network. They hunt for the new talent on the Internet and at conventions. How will they know you have anything to offer them if you aren’t putting yourself out there, gaining the experience and contacts you’ll need to attract notice?

Expand your networking beyond the Internet. Try to take in conventions, or join a local writers’ group. Conventions offer opportunities to take in workshops taught by experienced writers, attend panels where you can glean valuable industry information and tips, and schedule pitch sessions.

Pitch sessions are hosted at most conventions. You won’t get the opportunity to pitch your kick ass horror novel to Don D’ Auria over the Internet. But you just might get that chance if you attend a convention or two and sign up for a pitch session. Check out some of the Guests of Honor and special author guests at places like Context, Killercon, Hypericon. Here’s a rich opportunity for the new writer to learn the ropes from names like Thomas F. Monteleone, Gary Braunbeck, and Michael Knost.

Consider joining a writers’ organization to expand your networking options. While not for everyone, writers’ organization (and other freelancing organizations) can offer a wealth of information in the form of links, contract templates, writing tips, articles on the business side of writing, and a great deal of community support. Some writer and freelancing organization I recommend you check out and consider are:

Horror Writers Association:

http://horror.org/

Speculative Fiction Canada

http://www.sfcanada.ca/

Editors Association of Canada

http://www.editors.ca/

Editorial Freelancers Association

http://www.the-efa.org/

International Thriller Writers

http://www.thrillerwriters.org/

All have varying fees and qualifications required before you join. Some have job boards members can browse, and most have an attached forum where you can sign up and network with fellow members. If you’re a recognized professional by the organization, often they’ll list you in their professional pages, which employers in need of freelancers can browse.

The more you network, the more contacts and relationships you build, the more you gain another valuable asset for the writer: experience with the human condition. Writing can be a lonely, solitary endeavor. Ultimately, what does every novel written explore to some extent? In one way or another, they all puzzle over why we emote, create, dream, design, and die. What better way to understand people than to interact with them? Soak up the human experience.

Watch the nuances of a conversation between two writers at a convention. Pay attention to the face of a reader when you talk books. Listen to the ‘war’ stories from authors with tales of publishers gone wrong. You’re not only networking, you’re filing away pieces to construct future characters.

Louise Bohmer is the author of the critically acclaimed “The Black Act” as well as a freelance editor and all around wonderful person.  Visit her at http://www.louisebohmer.com and be sure to order a copy of her fantastic book.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Louise says:

    Yay! Just saw this, as I’m just getting my nose out of emails. hehe I hope you’re having a great time at the campus, luv. I’m off to pimp! 🙂

    You’re words at the end make me blush to my ear tips! heheee

  2. EXCELLENT BLOG!!!! This blog should be rules by which every writer should live!

  3. JodiLee says:

    Excellent, Louise – as always!

    And I still say you’re not as tongue-tied as you think you are… 😉 *hugs*

  4. Louise says:

    hehe Thanks, hon! 🙂 I over-analyze the way I sound in person.

    *hugs*

  5. […] Guest Blog – Louise Bohmer – The Importance of Networking […]

  6. […] you enjoyed this post, check out her other posts at Scott Colbert’s and Jodi Lee’s blogs and watch for posts by Louise at Jude Mason’s and Kody […]