Yesterday I spent the evening at the Chicago Literati networking event organized by Kaye Publicity. I've been going to these networking events since Dana Kaye started holding them, and I'm always on the lookout for more networking opportunities.
I've tried inviting writer-friends along, to no avail. Which puzzles me. Yes, it's a long drive (in lovely, lovely Chicago evening traffic) from the far-flung 'burb where I live. Yes, quite often nothing concrete comes out of these events. But seriously, are you only going to attend a networking event if I'm going to 100% guarantee that you'll get a publishing contract out of the evening?
Guess what, that's not how things work. In all likelihood, you'll spend the evening talking to other aspiring writers, which is mostly what I did. I did meet some published authors; Sherill Bodine signed the copy of her latest book, All I Want Is You, that was in my goody bag (this is one of the reasons why my TBR pile is so huge; publicity events = free books). And Blythe Gifford chatted to me about what it's like writing historical romances for Harlequin Historical, and helpfully gave me a bookmark so I'm not desperately trying to remember her name this morning (my dilemma with regard to the lady who's sending me a book to review....)
And came home with some books - I guess I'll get to read my first James Patterson, written mostly, in this case, by Maxine Paetro (that whole business of outsourcing books always amuses me), and I was delighted to score a copy of Julie Hyzy's Affairs of Steak, which recently hit the NYT bestseller list.
So why go to these things? If you're an aspiring author, you might feel intimidated or shy, or think that nobody's going to care that you came. If you're published, you might be thinking that it's not worth it and you've got too many things to do to market your book already...
Reason # 1, 2 and 3: NAME RECOGNITION. Julie Hyzy is a case in point. I'd never heard of her before I met her at the first Chicago Literati. After meeting her, I Liked her Facebook page. And then saw that she had a contest to win an ARC of Grace Interrupted on her blog. I entered, won, read the book, enjoyed it and said so on my review. Now I will put Affairs of Steak high on my TBR pile so that I can read and review it. Okay, I'm not some big shot reviewer, but I've become a booster for Julie's books.
Dana Kaye has written on her blog that you need to see a name (or book) three times before it sticks in your head (she said it a bit more elegantly). In a world where (again, something I read on a blog but didn't keep track) more new books were published last year than in the whole of the 1950s, name recognition is extremely important. Why do people buy James Patterson books? Because everyone knows the name, and if you're standing in front of a rack of books by people you don't know, JAMES PATTERSON is going to jump out at you.
I think it works for aspiring authors, too. I don't believe that marketing should start when you publish your book. I believe it should start when you start thinking that one day you'd like to publish a book. Yes, that early. Before you've even got a book to sell. Because it takes FOREVER to build up a readership unless you find a publishing company that's going to spend big bucks on promotion. And they just don't do that for new authors unless for some reason they are absolutely sure they have a bestseller on their hands.
And networking is the easy side of marketing. You put on some half-decent clothes and go spend a couple of hours eating, drinking, and talking about books and writing. And you're going to feel awkward and shy and badly dressed and all the rest, but so does everyone else. Writers are introverts for the most part, and the social whirl doesn't come easily because we'd rather be at home reading or writing. But if you're going to want to publish some day then you're going to be writing for a readership (or else what's the point?) and you should be out there CREATING that readership right now.
Inspired? Go find a local writer event and sign up right now. It can be an author panel, bookstore event, writing class at the local library, whatever. Or you can go all out and sign up for a conference (even if you've got nothing to pitch you'll meet tons of people that way). Just go.
What's your favorite networking strategy?