IRL Connections: Why Writers Need Networking Too
Not that long ago, being able to write full-time for a living was the dream I was working toward. Another major professional goal was becoming a published author. Both of these have now become a reality. To be sure, neither was easy. But I received a lot of useful advice and encouragement along the way from other writers. Which proved to be crucial to sustaining my aspirations—and mental health.
Without a doubt, the biggest challenge I have overcome thus far in my career is pursuing freelance writing and foraging advantageous connections in the publishing world. In less than four years, I went from being an unknown novice to becoming an assistant editor then digital editor for one of the most influential media outlets in Southern Wisconsin. When I first decided to pursue freelance writing “as a sidegig” back in 2013, I spent months sending out dozens of pitches to local and national publications. I knew if I didn't give up, eventually, a "YES" would emerge from the plethora of "NO's." I also made the most of every opportunity that came my way by not missing deadlines and accepting each networking invitation and/or new local connection someone extended to me. What I learned via this process is that open doors often exist around so many corners; one just has to have the confidence to first seek them out, then walk through them. And that passion, fueled by resiliency, can carry you a good stretch of the journey, since knowledge, talent, and connections will continue to be gained along the way.
Networking with fellow writers, readers, and publishing vets can replenish your creativity on a holistic level, in addition to providing the expertise needed to lay the track toward the writer’s life you’ve been dreaming of. And several of the same stellar authors and illustrators who dropped some knowledge into last month’s blog can equally attest to the power of authentic professional relationships:
I do a lot of school visits. I enjoy meeting and talking to readers and giving them (hopefully) a meaningful experience. A tangential benefit is that the visits get people talking about my books, and that helps with promotion.
—Author and illustrator Jason Chin
In an ideal world, I like to attend readings, conferences, and literary events to meet new authors and cultivate a sense of togetherness. Given our current reality, I tend to cultivate relationships with other writers via online platforms. I've found that with most kidlit authors, if you're willing to support others you tend to receive support in kind. Genuine connections often comes of that exchange. Simple gestures like amplifying projects on social media can go a long way. Other ways I've connected with fellow kidlit authors, and writers in general, is through virtual workshops, fellowships, and even direct collaboration on kidlit writing.
—Author and poet Ty Chapman
I think I'm a little bit of an unusual author in this respect, because I had already been working as a librarian and a bookseller for many years before publishing my first book. So when we started talking about the marketing of my debut, I already knew a lot of people and this helped me and my book greatly. But, even if you don't know anyone, I think that the personal relationships are what make all the difference. As a bookseller, I've always recommended getting to know the local booksellers and buyers, even before your book comes out. Get to know the librarians as well. Those can be long lasting relationships since they can offer advice and make a big difference in the life of the book. Plus, you will get to know some cool people who love books.
—Author Susan Kusel
I’ve been fortunate to develop good relationships with indie book sellers, who have hosted launch events for my books and then go on to sell the title.
—Illustrator Sean Rubin
I have been poured into by many mentors in the field before, during, and after school as well as career moves. Which is why I love to cultivate connection by supporting anyone in their journey and cheering them on as others have done for me. I’ve loved seeing friends sign with an agent. (Sometimes we become agent siblings!) Sometimes it means I’m getting to hop on the phone and talk with a friend about how their editorial meeting went or what they want from an agent/editor. Sometimes it’s an excited text about a book name; a boost during a query trench or just cheering big on Instagram when a friend publishes their first poem. I truly live by when one wins, we all win. But winning is also so beyond publication.
—Author and poet Ari Tison
“I think author events have helped me the most when it comes to book promotion. I've partnered with booksellers to do school visits as well as holding launch parties and signings at their stores. I also did free readings for World Read Aloud Day when I was first published, which then led to paid school visits. Teachers, librarians, and other educators are incredibly helpful and generous about spreading the word about books, especially when they've met the author in person!”
—Author Andrea Wang
Now that pandemic-related restrictions are starting to be lifted around the country, it seems likely numerous face-to-face writers’ conferences and author readings will resume over the coming months. The Loft’s event line-up is accessible here. And if you’re itching to explore new writing terrain, plus start mingling again with other writers IRL, consider attending one of the following for the first time: