Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Who's In Your Network?

The more I learn about the wacky world of publishing, the more I see the importance of networking. Too often, book sales, rave reviews, and successful marketing campaigns are based, not on what you know, but who you know.

If you're an author with a book coming out, especially a debut novel, you have one goal: get the word out. Your book won't sell if people don't know about it. How do you spread the word? You reach out to your network:

Family - Your parents, siblings, and spouse are givens, but make sure you reach out to your extended family as well. They'll definitely buy your book, but more importantly, they'll tell their friends and coworkers about it.

Friends and Acquaintances- Friends are another given, they're definitely going to buy your book and spread the word, but acquaintances are trickier. Depending on how well you know these people, they may or may not buy your book. How do you persuade them? Invite them to your launch party or other social event. Hopefully, after a few drinks they're more inclined to pick up a copy.

Coworkers - Most of us have day jobs, but if you're fortunate enough to be a career novelist, reach out to your spouses coworkers. Don't be timid about bringing your two lives together, people are usually interested. Post a flyer for your signing in the punch room or e-mail coworkers announcing your book's release.

Writing Acquaintances - These are the people you've met at conferences, signings or other literary events. You mostly correspond via e-mail and don't correspond too often. Again, don't be timid about announcing your book's release or inviting them to a signing. Chances are, they're planning on doing the same when their book comes out. If it's been a while, remind them when and where you met.

Online Acquaintances - These are your followers on Twitter, your Facebook and Myspace friends, your LinkedIn connections. Many of these people you've never corresponded with, some of them you don't even know. But that's why they call these social networking sites. They allow people to network without meeting or even communicating. If you're using these platforms, utilize them, and announce every signing, reading, or conference you're attending.

Now that you have identified the people in your network, you can start putting together your mailing list. But how do you make the network grow? A few suggestions:
  1. Attend literary events in your area. Introduce yourself to the organizers, authors, and attendees if appropriate.
  2. Attend writers conferences. I find this the most effective way to build a network. Of course, it helps if your sociable and don't go up to your room after every panel. Station yourself at the hotel bar and don't be afraid to introduce yourself to people.
  3. Utilize the social networking sites by obtaining "friends", linking through to your webpage, and updating regularly.
  4. Join Backspace, an online community of writers. Don't just lurk. The more you post, the more your presence will be known!
  5. Be friendly, especially to the people you see on a regular basis. Introduce yourself to the barista who fixes your latte every morning, the bookseller where you buy your books, the bartender at your regular watering hole. They'd probably be interested in your book, maybe they'd even schedule or advertise an event.

The concept is simple: you sell more books if more people know about them. You tell the people in your network, they'll tell the people in theirs. So start twittering, handing out business cards, and calling that second cousin you haven't seen in years, because if you have a book coming out, everyone needs to know!

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