For some authors, the concept of ‘networking’ is like pulling teeth—painful and to be avoided at all costs. However, it could present useful opportunities, and there are different ways to make the most of these opportunities.
But first, we need to have a quick look at why you might want to network in the first place. Here are a few reasons:
- To sell more books
- To sell more books through a distribution channel (i.e. bulk sales, gift channels)
- To introduce your concepts to a new audience
- To generate paid opportunities for teaching, consulting etc.
- To promote reading, literature, poetry etc.
After you have considered your reason (or reasons) for wanting to network, you then need to decide what feels comfortable for you, or at least, not so uncomfortable that you won’t do it. That said, I would like to encourage you to start with some comfortable options first and then challenge yourself once you build a little more courage.
Most people probably think of networking as attending an event with a bunch of random strangers and then after listening to someone else’s elevator pitch, being ready to fire off your own elevator pitch, even if it is not relevant to the person you are talking to. I would suggest that you avoid these types of events unless there is a really great speaker or entertainment that you can enjoy!
Find the right audience
If your mission is to sell more books, you need to network with people who will be interested in buying your books! Children’s books are usually of interest to parents, teachers and librarians and well-read friends and family members who buy them as presents—although this last group can be difficult to herd into one spot. However, teachers and librarians do congregate at schools and association events and they are often looking for speakers and authors to interview. These small and often local audiences are usually very excited to meet a ‘real author’ and understand more about your book.
Local bookshops that you personally support are also usually open to suggestions, or are good sources for recommendations for events.
Guest speaking at conferences, events, meetup groups, book groups or book launches can also help you tap into the right ‘audience profile’ for your publication. If you are attending one that is of interest, be bold and introduce yourself as willing to speak ‘next year’ if a place is available. If you get listed on the program, connect with the other speakers before the event to give them a heads-up about your presentation, and a direct opportunity to come up and network with you at the conference. After the conference, post your presentation online where it can provide further networking opportunities.
If you are attending events, please remember to arrive early (so it is not so intimidating) and if you leave last, you can be sure that there will be some extrovert who is very willing to talk to you right until the very end! If it really is too much, praise yourself for turning up and leave when convenient (I have done this several times, particularly when all I am getting is a sales pitch).
Once you develop some real courage, you can go along to other non-specific events and try meeting people serendipitously. But be willing to help them first before expecting them to provide you with referrals or suggestions on other individuals or networks to tap into. I always find that asking for information is so much easier than asking for book sales!
Build online networks
Do you have an up-to-date online presence? You should have an informative website, a LinkedIn Profile (regardless of your genre) and some other relevant social media for your audience (Google expects you to have both a website and a social media presence nowadays). Does your online presence allow people to contact you directly, or click on a link and complete an online form to reach you or your agent or publisher? If you can Search Engine Optimise (SEO) your content online, you can once again be networking 24/7 if people can find you for your selected search keywords. For example, Google ‘LinkedIn Specialist’ and you will see my name on the first page of Google search results.
If you can find the sweet spot of physically networking where your audience is, I encourage you to also do the following online:
- Promote the fact that you will be attending before you attend
- Take photos on the day (I prefer from the back of the room to de-identify the audience) and perhaps one or two with the organisers and share these on social media (make sure you also use hashtags and ping the organisation and/or organisers in the post)
- Invite all guests to connect with you on LinkedIn by turning on Bluetooth on their phone, opening the LinkedIn App, clicking on My Network (the two people on the bottom of the screen) and then ‘Find Nearby’ and connecting live and in real time. I also offer a free book to the first person who appears on my phone screen
- Follow up with a favourable Google Review for the organiser, personally thank them for the opportunity via a direct email and offer anyone you do connect with either a book extract or some other electronic ‘perk’ for connecting by direct email
Ultimately, networking is about introducing yourself to people, finding a way to maintain that connection after the meeting (connecting on social media is simpler than emailing and potentially spamming and annoying them) and then continuing to release good quality content that keeps them interested into the future.