Note from Carolyn: Even now, before the publication of her first novel (see Ash's signature at the bottom of this post), Ash is such a successful networker that she maxed out the number of friends Facebook can handle, and had to create a fan page for her work. Even more exciting? Her techniques are techniques everyone can manage. Read on for how she does it!
It's not going to do you any good to write an amazing book if you aren't going to do anything to promote it.
Writing is a solitary effort, right? But networking is a team sport all the way. When you emerge from your writing cave, shiny manuscript in hand, you should already have a plan on what you're going to do with it. Hopefully, it's not meant to sit in a drawer or in a computer file. You want that book out there, in the hands of hungry readers. That book was meant for the world.
And the world is not a solitary kind of place.
Odds are you aren't a famous authority on a huge platform of wisdom and fame. You may be more like me—a working mom who is trying to turn a hobby into a second job. Everyone starts small and so should we. First-time queriers agonize over the lack of an impressive bio in their query letter but few realize that often a solid online presence is enough to let an agent know you mean business.
Ever Google yourself? You should. If an agent is thinking about reading more of your work, she's definitely going to do it. Your online presence may be one of the first impressions you make.
Of course, one way to build your online presence is to get published, but that starts the whole chicken or egg type of quandary. There's a simpler way to start…and you are probably doing it already without realizing it.
It's called social networking.
Networking is key to the success and survival of your book. But it's a scary prospect for an emerging writer. You've written your first book, have no other publishing credits, don't have an agent or an inside track with a best-selling author, and have absolutely no courage to attend a conference…you're as good as anonymous. Who's going to listen to another faceless writer?
Thanks to the internet, you don't have to remain faceless. You don't have to remain friendless, either.
Twitter: Can't deny that I have been pulled into the Twitterverse, kicking and screaming. Unlike regular space, Twitterspace is not a vacuum. It's a human soup of news and interaction and connection. Thanks to dedicated readers like @Porter_Anderson, our blog gets tweeted with links and quotes to readers who may not be aware of our site.
Recently, I tweeted (from @ashkrafton) a shoutout with the question: What's your #networking magic bullet? I sent it out using Lazy Shout Out, a tool that helps me get a message out to all tweeps in a certain list. (Sounds like cheating but it's just good social media management.)
Here are some of the answers:
@eslarke Just being active on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. I interact with others and take part in discussions.
@Bri_Clark I know my platform and it's natural for me to utilize it. I'm the belle of boise.
@nancynaigle Friends like you are my #networking magic bullet :) I love meeting new people and gaining new perspectives!
@jim_devitt there is no magic bullet, you've got to be hitting on all cylinders, that and have a good book!
@wickedcoolflght …one of my best networking tools is @Paperbackdolls.
@heidirubymiller reciprocation and interaction
Guess what? They are all right. Read that last tweet again: reciprocation and interaction. You can't network without putting some effort into it.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to follow each of the tweeps mentioned above. Once you do that, you can congratulate yourself for networking. Shoutouts aren't the only aspect of Twitter. You can retweet interesting tweets, too. I often pass on links to articles or inspirational quotes, anything I think my followers might find interesting. Sharing information is networking.
Facebook is another great way to network. Visit your friends' pages and add friends from their lists. Worst thing they can do is not accept your request, right? Visit the sites of writers who write like you do and add from their friend list as well. Also, when responding to friend requests, click the link that allows you to see “all requests.” Often it opens up the friend requests to reveal a few of *their* friends. Add them, too. You're building bridges to other people—and bridges form the structure of a network.
If you have an account, you already know it can be used to interact with friends, acquaintances, and peers, but don't forget the other kinds of pages. You can start an author page (mine is http://facebook.com/AshKraftonAuthor) and invite friends to “like” your page. (The invite page is on the right side.) There's an opportunity to buy an ad but I feel the potential bill would be too costly for an emerging writer like myself. You can also participate in groups and perhaps start one for your own writing. Make the group reader friendly and participate regularly. You'll be networking in no time at all.
Blogging is a quick and easy way for us to express ourselves outside our formal writing. Originally designed to be journals, blogs (short for web log) quickly evolved into an effective means of sharing information to a variety of audiences. Blogging platforms have evolved, as well, enabling us to connect with readers using friending and following functions. Blogger.com, Wordpress, and Livejournal are three of the biggest blogging platforms and can get you up and blogging in no time. I love how the blogs, in turn, offer RSS feed capabilities as well as Facebook's “Like” and Twitter's “Tweet This” buttons for easy sharing.
You shouldn't stop at writing a blog; you need to read them—and comment, too. When you comment, you have the opportunity to provide a direct link to your website or blog that other readers can follow. More readers, more friends, more connections.
Blog hops are a fun way to find new blogs that focus on your interests. I'll be participating in the Coffin Hop Horror Web Tour (October 24-31, 2011) along with a bunch of great horror writers. Readers can view a huge clickable list of different blogs and hop (okay, it's a Halloween hop, so I guess readers will lurch or stagger) from blog to blog. The blogs are offering prizes for commenters as well as showing off their writing chops.
What do writers get out of all of this? Exposure, of course. And exposure brings new readers and new connections to the other bloggers and all of it is (say it with me) networking.
According to an article from Author Marketing Experts, blog commenting doesn't need to turn into a time suck. Set a goal to leave a certain number a week. You may be surprised to hear that certain number doesn't need to astronomical, either—you can gain significant exposure by commenting on as few as three to five blogs per week. And set a time limit, too. I use a kitchen timer to limit how long I fool around network via blog comments.
Goodreads, anyone? You can link your blog to your Goodreads page and Tweet your reviews. My favorite part of Goodreads is the giveaway program. Recently I held my first giveaway; I offered an anthology from my publisher, Pink Narcissus Press, in August and every day I logged in just to see how many people entered. My giveaway ended up having several hundred entrants, which really had me chuffed. Even if only a small percent of them went back to check out the book, that's still more traffic than the book had before the giveaway. Several of the entrants made friend connections to my profile, as well. And that, friends, is networking.
Of course, these websites are the basic, most popular ones, but there is no reason you can't use them to your advantage. The “basics” are used by millions of people around the world—and that's a pretty big potential audience.
You don't have to be a Wizard of SEO or a nationally-known keynote speaker. Successful networking begins at your fingertips with a click of the mouse or a Tweet of an idea. Give your book the biggest chance to succeed by reaching out to new readers, one step at a time.
Networking really is that easy.
Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region, where she keeps the book jacket for "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" in a frame over her desk. Visit the Spec Fic Website at www.ashkrafton.com for updates on the release of her debut novel, Bleeding Hearts, forthcoming in early 2012 through Pink Narcissus Press.