Networking in the Writing Business
The journey of most writers is taken by a series of steppingstones, with one step leading us through a network of editors, fellow writers, markets and often some very unlikely contacts. Learn how to take good advantage of these networking opportunities. Sometimes we are looking for networking resources and other times they come right out of the blue from very unexpected places.
networking led to a book contract
Networking on the Front Porch at Broadfoots of Wendell
Like the out-of-the-blue phone call that eventually led me to three book contracts and an agent. I was watching TV when photographer Bruce Curtis called me. He had taken some horse photos and needed a writer to provide the text for one of his book ideas. How did he find me was my first question? Well, it wasn't me he wanted, but the editor of a national children's magazine. But, that editor was already involved in a project and she suggested he contact me. I'd written for her magazine several times. Bruce and I put together a few proposals, which he turned over to his agent. Time went by and I'd almost forgotten all about Bruce and our book ideas.
I opened my email one morning to find a message from a editor interested in the proposal I'd written for a book on miniature horses. One thing led to another and The Book of Miniature Horses became a reality, which led to The Book of Draft Horses, and The Book of Mules. In addition to leading me to the publisher, Lyons Press, of these non-fiction books, Bruce's agent is now my agent, too.
In central North Carolina there was a very unique bookstore. It wasn't in a shopping mall or even downtown. Broadfoots of Wendell was located "out in the country" surrounded by woods and fields. They were a specialty bookstore whose inventory includes books about North Carolina, books by North Carolina authors, and various teaching materials. They did a lively business for many years, but the thing that was especially unique about Broadfoots was the way they supported the writers of the books they sold.
The heart of this support was their annual Carolina Experience. The Carolina Experience was held in September, and it was an extraordinary networking opportunity between teachers, school librarians, and authors.
We, the authors gave our school visit presentations before the teachers and media specialists. Teachers could attend several presentations in a day, ask questions, and decide which authors they would like to invite to their school. A group book signing and lunch was held outdoors under awnings.
In addition to the teacher and author meet-up opportunity it was also an opportunity for authors to compare notes with each other on all kinds of writer subjects. We discussed our personal experiences in finding a publisher, contract issues, markets for our books, and of course ways to improve our school visits.
A Little Help From Some Friends and Strangers
Another networking experience of mine involved membership in an online writers site, the Writers BBS of which I've been a member for close to ten years. Facebook is a great networking venue for those who use it well. I set up a fan page for my books Books by Donna Campbell Smith. I reach out to my readers and fellow writers with news about my events, writing and interesting articles that relate to my books. It is one of my most important networking venues.
In my frequent online posts I often extolled the virtues of North Carolina's Outer Banks as a perfect writer's retreat and place to let the muse take over. Somehow we began planning a WBBS Writers Retreat to the Outer Banks. I picked a hotel and a small group of us did indeed meet and spend the weekend at Kitty Hawk, NC. One lady, April Fields, came all the way from Atlanta. She'd just published a low-carb dessert cookbook. We had a book signing at Manteo Booksellers, we met evenings for writerly discussions, and during the day split up to whatever parts of the coast we wanted to tour.
April and I drove down to Buxton to see the Hatteras Lighthouse. She shared with me she was planning to start up her own publishing company. The publisher of my two children's historical fiction novels had just gone out of business.
Long story short, April's Faithful Publishing became my new publisher. I would never had guessed all those years earlier when I signed up for the WBBS forums I would meet my future publisher.
Joining my local arts council gives me many opportunities to network with both other writers and with readers. Through arts council grants I have conducted several writing workshops and was able to coordinate a writers guild.
So, whether it's a recommendation from an editor, an organized networking event, or online writer's group the opportunities are out there. Stay opened minded, attend workshops and conferences, participate in writers online and real groups. You never know when one thing might lead to another and your goal will be achieved with a little help from some friends, or even perfect strangers.