By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Networking member, NAIWE Board of Experts
A lot goes into launching a successful writing business, and networking can be one factor in that success. I’ll be talking about the practical aspects of such a venture in the NAIWE May webinar about launching a writing business (link to come). This post focuses on the networking aspect of your writing work.
Writers might not think of networking as an element of their new businesses, but that could mean losing out on valuable ways to learn about craft and business, and to develop connections that could not only improve those aspects of what they want to do, but also lead to a greater likelihood of getting published.
All writers probably share a common goal: for our words, thoughts and perspectives to find audiences and outlets. Individuals might be at different stages of creativity, visibility or success, but every writer wants — even needs — to be seen and heard. For the new writer, that first sale or outlet is so exciting, and networking is one way to get there.
Whether you’re writing a novel or a press release, a poem or a white paper, a play or a case study, a how-to book or a personal blog post, you want what you write to be seen and appreciated. Beyond being seen, we also want everyone who sees our writing to understand it, respond to it positively by publishing reviews or acting on it somehow, recommend it to others, and read or buy the next piece we write. Networking can help that happen.
Where networking comes into play is in providing resources for learning to write better by joining critique groups, taking classes or lining up beta readers; identifying reputable editors and proofreaders, and understanding and managing their input; finding appropriate agents and publishers for our work; getting paid; and related details of a writing business or the writing life.
Through networking, you can meet colleagues who will provide advice, insights and resources, and who might become beta readers or refer you to writing projects and clients. You could be seen by and connect with potential agents to represent your work or publishers who might consider bringing you into their houses, saving you the effort of searching for the ideal agent and outlet. If you plan to self-publish work that needs illustrations, networking can help you find the artist you need.
It’s important to remember, by the way, that networking is a two-way process. In fact, that might be the most important aspect of networking. A writer needs to create a net of contacts and colleagues who can help them do their work better and enhance their likelihood of publication. One of the best ways to do that is to be a useful strand in the nets of colleagues. If you ask questions and get helpful answers, look for ways to provide answers to other people’s questions.
And don’t let being new to writing or networking make you feel that you can’t contribute to the networking process. You can! If you don’t have any answers yet, look for resources you can share — books, courses, blogs, organizations, etc., that you have found useful or have seen in your real-world and online visiting. Keep in mind that we all had to start somewhere, first by actually writing something, next by getting it published, and then by becoming visible and active in some corner of the writing world. Even extroverts like me had to learn the ropes of networking effectively; it isn’t just a matter of paying dues and showing up or using the resources of an association to enhance our own writing work.
In the continuing pandemic era, we can’t do much networking in person, so the introverts among us don’t have to worry as much about fitting in at events as in the past (and, we hope, the future). Nowadays, you can use the virtual world to your networking advantage by “lurking” in online communities and professional associations for a while, to take the temperature of the environment and decide whether it will be helpful before you spend money on a membership or speak up with your questions and suggestions. Oh, and anything you do invest in joining an organization is a tax deduction!
Learn and profit from networking, and try to give as much as you take. Your writing business and efforts will blossom as a result, along with your reputation.
Ruth E. Thaler-Carter is a widely published freelance writer/editor and the creator of Communication Central’s Be a Better Freelancer® conference, now co-hosted by NAIWE and the An American Editor blog. Through her active participation in a variety of professional associations, she is often called the Queen of Networking.