The other day a friend asked me: “How do you network the way you do?” And at first I was like “What? I don’t network. That’s for schmoozers and politicians!” And then I got to thinking about the ways my relationships with other genre writers and editors has changed my life, and I realized that my network of friends has provided me with some amazing opportunities . Here’s a list of experiences that came about entirely through tapping my network:
Becoming a staff blogger, reviewer, & interviewer on a horror site.
Getting a micropress book deal (which tanked).
Landing a ghostwriting gig.
Working as an editorial assistant for a best-selling anthologist.
Submitting a story to an anthology that was born as a Twitter joke.
Proofreading an anthology.
Reading slush for an anthology.
Landing a story commission to fill a last-minute slot in an invitation-only anthology.
Selling a story to an invitation-only anthology.
Becoming an assistant editor at Fantasy Magazine.
Being invited to submit to an invitation-only market with great exposure.
Being offered a top-secret very cool project from a small press.
Those are a lot of great experiences! And I owe them all to getting to know people–two of the experiences came from connections formed at conventions and workshops, while the rest came from the friendships I’ve made on Twitter. It all came from networking, which is an impressive achievement for an introvert who struggles in a social setting.
So how did I do it?
Well, it didn’t happen overnight. My first steps weren’t too hard. I attended a writing workshop at my local SFF convention. I signed up for Twitter. I followed a lot of people on Twitter and joined a lot of conversations about topics I felt comfortable talking about, mostly about lolcats and desserts. And I just hung out, enjoying my new friends. This was all time-consuming, but it was very fun.
Then, I stepped it up. One of my personal goals is to be a supporter and advocate of genre fiction, and a good member of the SFF community. I decided that I had an obligation to help out somehow, so I began saying yes to opportunities when they arrived. More importantly, I followed through to the best of my ability. Follow through is the absolute key to networking: if you’re not reliable, your reputation and your hard-built relationships can be destroyed. And when people you like are relying on you, you absolutely don’t want to hurt them or your friendship!
If the second step in networking is helping others to help yourself, then the third step is helping others to help your friends. The best part of making all these connections is bringing other people together and seeing them create something great together. One great example of this happened last summer. As the great Twitter joke “#rigoramortis” grew into a real anthology with a call for submissions, John Remy contacted Jaym Gates, the instigating editor of the project. He knew that Galen Dara loved drawing all things creepy, sexy, and horrible, and suggested Jaym tap Galen for illustrations. Rigor Amortis became an illustrated anthology, extremely unique, exciting and successful, and Jaym and Galen have gone on to work on other several other projects together. When friends help friends, wonderful things happen!
To summarize, here’s how you network:
- Create relationships with people you like.
- Offer to help out.
- Follow through with awesomesauce and integrity.
- Pay it forward.
Now, I know that #1 can feel a little terrifying at first, but if you take it slowly, you can totally do it. We’re all human, and humans are naturally social creatures. Even if being in social situations is scary for you, just take it easy and focus on lighthearted, friendly approaches. Keep it light at first. And don’t feel badly if you find yourself on a forum or Twitter and just agreeing with someone or telling them that you liked their idea/cat picture/link. You’re showing that you’re friendly and interested in what they like–which is a great way to open doors and get to know people. It’s all about making connections with like-minded, likeable folks, so focus on the people you enjoy chatting with.
So gird your loins with pictures of cute animals and start networking! Your community is waiting for you.