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Posts tagged ‘networking’

Give and take

I can’t speak for everyone, but this writer is socially awkward and uncertain. Last week I talked about networking as an Indie author, and creating a barter system that would help those with no budget, but time, get off and running. What if I don’t have a network? Was asked.

Well, here’s the thing about networking. It’s a mixture of being willing to ask, and being willing to give. The system is one built on trust, like any other relationship, and that makes it a delicate balance for those of us who aren’t terribly socially ept. I can’t help much, other than to talk about my experiences and how I tend to feel like a clumsy ox when it comes to human interactions.

Writer’s groups are the best place to start building this network, of course. I first joined one when I was submitting bits of stories for critique to an online forum, and was invited to take part in a small group. That didn’t go very well. I hear horror stories about the impact groups can have on delicate young writers egos, but for me it wasn’t an impact on my writing, it was a terrible feeling of having to pretend to be something I wasn’t, in order to keep from being attacked and flamed. Because I didn’t trust them on one level, I couldn’t take seriously their criticism of my work –  and most importantly, looking back, I couldn’t fully critique their work. That meant I wasn’t giving my best to them. I was afraid that if I pointed out flaws, they would come back at me saying that I was only bashing them for other reasons (I was not the same religion they were, and much of the OT chatter was bashing my religion). Later still, after I’d moved on from that group, I did hire one of them for editing, only to have to hire another person to revert those edits… It was a nightmare.

Lest you think I’m trying to discourage you! I am not. I am saying that if you don’t fully trust the people in the group, it’s a sign to bow out and move on. I got lucky, for values of luck, when I did at last wind up invited to a group mentored by Sarah Hoyt and Dave Freer. The group was run by another writer, Darwin Garrison (whose stories are worth looking up) and it was a far better structure than the small group (remember the song in the Music Man, with the women singing “pick a little…” That was the first group) in that it was targeted at becoming better writers. Not that there wasn’t off topic chatter, it’s the first place I saw in-depth discussion of what the publishing world was really like. And ultimately it led me here.

That group went the way of most communities – the attrition of time washed some of us away. I stopped writing for some years, dealing with illness and depression as my marriage spiralled into darkness. I reconnected with some of them on Facebook, and in time I started writing again. At that point I also started to consider the writing as a business, once I’d finished a novel. I had a bunch of stories, not all finished, in a drawer. I had very little money, so I knew I’d be on my own for things like covers and formatting. I decided early on that I would hire an editor… The first time I used money I’d saved and set aside from my other business. After that, all monies from sales were put back into the writing biz until it turned a profit.

I’ve always worried about asking too much of my friends, who were accomplished writers when I was struggling to begin. I’ve been blessed with good friends, but I try very hard to give as much as I get. I took a workshop on cover design (Dean Wesley Smith, it was $300 four years ago) so I could do my covers and help others. Later there was a class on design at college. I spent countless hours on art, learning how to take incoherent elements and make something that would sell a book. At this point, I have a skill I’m confident has value, which I can trade with others, towards editing my writing. I can edit, but I enjoy the art and design. You get the idea – if you are confident that what you are offering in trade is worth it, you’re more likely to ask for a barter.

Bartering is a trust relationship. If you’re trading loaves of bread for a chicken, it’s very physical and immediate. Trading skills takes time, and you may not see the results immediately. It’s important to know the other person well. And building that kind of relationship is not a quick and easy process. I suspect there’s a reason money has remained so popular over the ages. Friendships come and go, the work remains. I suspect that a more formal barter network for Indie Authors would be of use, some way to offer a skill you have, and say “I need x done” and there would be recommendations that paired you up. Pitfalls exist (don’t they always?) In that cliques would form, monetary values would have to be set (if someone is convinced their editing ought to be $500 per novel, they might not be happy to receive a $250 cover in return), and people who fail to deliver would have to be removed from the list (see the first pitfall).

So how to start forming your network? Start talking to people who are like-minded. Don’t limit the conversation to writing, only. Be an encouraging voice. And when you need help, ask. When help is asked for, offer to help. If you worry that you are asking too much, say that.

I’m bad about some of this. When I am deeply stressed, I tend to retreat from human contact. Some of this is a relic of my past, so when I feel I’ve upset someone, I go into full retreat mode with profuse apologies, which used to be the only way I could defuse an explosive rage. I know that this is not that, but if I’m not thinking clearly it is breathtakingly difficult to stop, open up, and reach out again. I’ve been trying to do this recently, and if you are like me, I encourage you to crack the shell a little, and take a risk. Writing may be a solitary occupation, but writers are healthier with friends.

Networking works for Writers

(Cedar here. I’m sick and slightly incoherent. My dear husband surprised me with something nicer than flowers or chocolates: a post so I wouldn’t have to write one)

Networking, when we think of that word it is usually someone using a network of friends to land a job or contract. We think of it in the realm of business, it can be useful to writers as well. Take today for example. I’m writing this essay on networking because Cedar has been sick for a couple of days and probably won’t be able to write as coherently as she would wish in the morning. While open floors are not unknown here an actual post is preferable, and the schedule doesn’t remember that people get sick. If she does write a Mad Genius Club post this one can go into archives and be pulled out as needed.

Now when I talk about networking for writers there are several areas to network in. This post is from a personal support network. If Cedar wasn’t stubborn about getting well “NOW” she has any number of writing friends that would be happy to do a post for her. Some of them because they are smart enough to be doing their own networking and others because they want a little exposure. Oddly enough those are both the same group, the second one just doesn’t realize it.

Now what kinds of networks should a writer cultivate? I’m not sure. A lot depends on the aims and situation of the individual. Someone who plans to be traditionally published eventually needs to network with editors, while someone who has sworn never to go through a traditional house might not, or so they think. After all, different networks of editors exist and some of them can be vital to the indie author. I’ll tell you some of the networks I’ve seen and why they work. Note, I am not a real writer, just someone who can write and does so on occasion. I am closely networked to a number of them and have been observing.

 Ok, first thing to do is figure out which networks you need. If you are a WriterPseudocoffeehousis  then all the network you need is the social group you are trying to impress. If you are someone who writes and the stuff will never be finished or seen you don’t even need that much. If you actually finish things and are willing for them to be seen you need more.

Your first, and ultimately most important network is your fans. Fans talk about authors they like and do grassroots promotion.  But, but, but I don’t have any fans you wail? Wrong. You have fans, or at least potential fans, they are your seed. Ultimately, if you are successful as a writer this network will consists of thousands, possibly millions of fans, right now that number may be much smaller. Ok, that “may be” is in case someone Like Larry Correia or John Ringo reads this blog. For more normal humans it will be much smaller.

Who makes up this network of fans I was talking about everyone having? Well it depends. Even if you are extremely reclusive you still have your mother, or possibly the old harridan down the street that is thrilled every time you kick the neighbor’s yappy poodle. I can’t say for your exact situation. For most of us the network of fans consists of family and friends at the very basis. Now if you are on social media you will probably have a potential fan base among them. And every one of them is hoping for your success as an author. They all want to be able to name drop that they are good buddies with the next JK Rowling.

Still that is a few hundred at best for most of us, we don’t have such huge networks unless we have had a lot of success already. This is why a John Ringo will have a waiting list of people wanting to friend him and a newbie is sending out friend requests to anyone they think might have some influence with someone who has influence. And those newbies are correct in a way. The larger number of readers on your friend lists the higher likelihood that some of them will buy your work when published.

There are other ways to build your fan base, even if you are not publishing anything soon, if ever.  Guest blogging on a blog with followers can get you exposure and, if they like what you write, fans. Starting your own blog can be another way. I’m no expert on building your fan base, but I know it is something that needs multiple approaches. You can even go my route and marry into a fan base.

Above all you need to be interesting to people. Whether in your actual life or in your public writings. I have become aware that I have a fan base. I’m not really sure how I got one, other than the previously mentioned marriage, but I have one. I developed it by making snarky comments and writing guest blogs with a bit of bitter edge to them. Do not think that snark and bitterness are the way to build a fanbase. Those things work for me in a small way. They would not work for someone else, or maybe they would, thing is, your way of building must suit your personality, not someone else’s. I know of a middling famous author who has horrible personal problems because of the way he chose to build his fan base. He is a tea and crumpets kind of guy who keeps meeting fangirls who think he is a whips and chains type.

So, now you know that you must network your fans, what other networks do you need? Well let’s go back to those editors I mentioned earlier.  If you want to be traditionally published networking editors is very useful. If your manuscript comes across the desk of an editor and she remembers that you are the one who gallantly laid your cloak across the puddle so that she wouldn’t get her shoes muddy she will automatically look with more favor upon your work. On the other hand, if he remember you pinching his butt just before throwing up in his lap you will probably get a less favorable look. This includes public positions taken. A sad puppy will have a higher bar to cross with a Tor editor than Joe Nameless who made no waves.

Now for Indies who are sitting there saying “I don’t need an editor network I’m publishing through Amazon” you are dead wrong. You probably need an editor network more than the traditional guys do. The biggest complaint in bad reviews for indies is usually the editing. Now a lot of that is people finding typos. If the book were traditionally published they wouldn’t even notice the typos. Much traditional publishing contains typos worse than much indie work, you’ll still get the complaints. You need a copy editor, period. I don’t care how much of a Grammar Nazi you are, you will miss stuff in your own work. The copy editor won’t catch all of them either, but it will help. You may also need a structure editor. Some people can write clearly and tell a complete story without needing a structure editor. Most can’t. What a structure editor can do is find that gaping hole in your logic that has the Evil Overlord being so incompetent at something he has already proven competent at. Now it might be that he is just having a blond moment, if so you have to show that. This is where the structure editor can help.

Now that I have shown that you need an editor or two, why do you need to network them?  Why can’t you just hire one from their ad on FailBook and be done? Well all editors are not created equal. And if the one you have been using is busy for the next two years, well, you need to find another one. A network that includes editors will help you find one that does copy editing, maybe a structural editor. More importantly a good network will help you avoid the incompetent. Many people talk a good game at various skills, most of them aren’t all that good. Even if someone is a good copy editor normally, they might be horrible for you. There is a possibly apocryphal story about one of the early twentieth century editors,  Ring Lardner I think, memory is failing me now. A copy editor went through and corrected all his spelling and grammar on a story. Made it unreadable. He wrote in the vernacular and his slang made the stories.

So find a good editor network and join it, find your fanbase network and expand it. Find all your networks and work them. It may or may not help your writing, It’ll damned sure help your business side.

Speaking of networking, there is a new book out you may want to check out:

jade star ebook coverJade Star is now available in ebook and print formats.

So it begins…

Jade is determined to die. She is old, and feels useless, when she points her tiny subspace craft at the cold stars. She wakes up in the care of others who refuse to grant her death, and instead give her a new mission in life complete with a new body.

Jade isn’t happy, and she only gets angrier when she learns that her mysterious new home hides a horrible secret. It’s time for this old lady to kick butt and take names. Aliens, death, destruction… nothing trumps the fierce old woman who is protecting her family.