This is part two of an ongoing series in which I identify key skills and aptitudes which I have found necessary in order to have the best chance of succeeding as a self publisher or indie micro publisher. These articles are based on both my professional training as an author, editor and commercial artist, and my experiences in the industry, running my company for the last 5 years. They are not intended to refer to any particular individual without permission, and are merely my opinion. Please read lots of opinions and only use mine if they resonate with you.
I really believe in the power of indie authors to be great, and carve out a place of respect for themselves in the market and among their peers. But, to do that, we all must engage in a process of continuous self-improvement and learning about quality and industry best practices. I am still in this process myself, but I would also like to reach out and help those newer to the community. The better you do, the better we all do. It’s time to raise the standard and earn respect for everyone!
This is the second part of a two-part post on networking for indie publishers. The first part is here.
So, you’re feeling a bit ‘out of the loop’, uninspired and alone, or you have discovered that you don’t yet have the coverage or resources to do the things you’d like to do with your book business. Networking can be a great way to diminish these issues. Plus, you’ll make some great new friends who share your interests.
Here are my top tips for making networking work for you:
1. Show up, and keep showing up.
Find events and spaces where you know other authors and artistic professionals will be, and go there regularly. If people seem not to notice you, or seem a bit standoffish, don’t get discouraged. A lot of close-knit groups are like this with new people. Make sure you give the event enough time before deciding that the culture doesn’t work for you. If it’s a weekly event, give it three months. A monthly event? At least six months. Yearly events are tricky, as they are often more costly, but even then, I would suggest going more than once unless it seems like a total rip-off.
2. Show enthusiasm.
One of the best ways to become part of a community is to listen a lot, take an interest in people, and join in on existing projects. If you show enthusiasm and support for other people’s projects, you’ll become part of the community, and you’ll learn a lot. Helping others, especially in this industry, always helps you too, so be generous!
3. Be a Friend.
Similar to the above, it takes a friend to make a friend. Concern yourself with what people can do for you, and you’ll come off as fake (and probably will be). Concentrate on making friends, no matter whether their interests interlock with yours, and you’ll find yourself with a great support network before long. Feed people. Lend them your pen. Offer rides. If you know someone a little better and feel safe doing so, offer crash space. Listen to their stories and learn about their hobbies. We’re all in this together, so it pays to work together, too!
Workshops and classes double as both great learning experiences that take you further away from Dunning-Kruger land (see the first item in this series), and as great places to meet others who are on the same stage of their journey. I always sign up for workshops when I’m able, because even if I feel like I’ve got a good grasp on the subject matter, I always learn something new, and meet new friends.
5. Remember: It’s about joining a community, not dredging for opportunity.
If you have read my take on networking and still want to do it the mercenary way, be my guest. But, I’m warning you, you’re cheating yourself out of a lot of genuine friendships, and a lot of joy. One of the amazing things I’ve learned from being part of a collaborative group of authors that often vend together is that we’re really not in competition with one another. Rather, by being together, we draw people in that will be interested in a variety of the books we’re all selling, depending on their tastes. We’re also great friends who enjoy each others’ company outside of our business endeavors.
I’ve met people who treat networking as a ‘What can you do for me?’ proposition, and, since this is unsolicited indie advice, I can honestly say that I find many of them rude and self-serving, and even if they may be very nice in private, they look extremely shallow when they engage in that kind of behaviour. Just think: that person you brush off today because they seem like small potatoes may actually turn out to be somebody you wish you’d gotten to know once you see more of them. But, I know I’m very reluctant to give second chances to someone who’s come off as mercenary and fickle when my business is on the line, and I’m sure many others are too.
The old adage is true: you only get one first impression. So don’t make that impression be that you’re a shallow dick who’s looking to climb the ladder quickly, because most people aren’t game to be stepped on while you climb. Do the work. Invest the time to really get to know people. Care about them and let them care about you. Join your local community, don’t just cruise by looking for handouts.
Networking isn’t a quick fix or a way to bypass industry gatekeepers… it takes work, and time investment, and real relationship building. But, if you’re willing to put in the work, it will benefit both you, and your community. Great, huh?
If you liked this article, why not check out the earlier posts in the series?