Thursday, March 7, 2024




It’s one of the most critical things we can learn as business owners, authors, editors, etc. (And if we’re being honest, networking is important for the typical 9-to-5 job, too.) But it can be daunting if you’re not sure how to go about it. Two of the biggest questions I’ve come across lately are…what IS networking, and how do you DO networking?

So let’s dig in. 

  1. What is networking? (It’s different from marketing, and branding, and all the other terms we’ve thrown around.) Essentially, networking is the process of building a community and healthy, strong relationships with others in similar fields, or in fields you may interact with during your separate work. You’ll find that networking will eventually shape up in three ways:
      1. Into close friendships: People you can trust to bounce ideas off of, people you help and can trust to help you in return, the “shirt-off-their back” type that you grow close with. These are your “ride-or-dies” that you meet thanks to the fact that you were in the industry to begin with.
      2. Into business partnerships: These are others either within the industry or related industries that you can trust to get the job done right, that you love to refer other folks to, and ones you will gladly associate your own name with. You might partner with another author to co-host or co-write a book, or you might partner with a formatter or editor, for example.
      3. Into acquaintances within the industry: You may not know this person very well, as with a close friendship, and they may not be a business partnership, but you know you can depend on them and vice versa, and they’re often within the same industry. For example, I might be acquainted with a lot of authors, and I can root for them and share their new releases and they might share mine in return, but I’m not close friends with them. 

When you’re networking, the biggest thing to remember is reciprocity. You’re not only seeking out business connections for yourself, you should also be asking yourself what you can do for the people you’re networking with. Networking cannot and should not be a “what’s in it for me?” situation or mindset, because that’s not how community works, and it shouldn’t be how relationships work. If you have work done for your book with a cover designer, you want to give them a shout-out on social media for the great work they did—and maybe they’ll share your cover reveal not only because it’s part of their portfolio, but because they’re wanting to help share your work too. Which leads to…

  1. How do you network? A completely legitimate question. I know a lot of folks struggle to work on networking (like me) but it’s extremely important, and a handy skill to have. In today’s world of social media, it makes networking a lot easier—but does word of mouth still have its place? We’ll see. 

Whether you’re completely new to the networking game or someone who’s had a business for awhile, you can benefit from simply seeking out connections with people who are likeminded. The people who have similar values, the ones with similar mindsets/morals, etc. — and especially the people who do the same thing you do. Write the most original fantasy you’ve ever seen? Well, someone else out there writes fantasy with similar tropes and themes. Crochet your own mythological creatures? Someone out there is selling crochet chickens, but they love sharing rad new projects like yours. Indie music artist? There are others out there who have similar values who have also walked the path you’re on now. 

One way to get started without feeling overwhelmed is simply following other creators you appreciate. You can share their work, knowing that it might not get noticed by that person themselves (and that’s okay!) BUT if you utilize hashtags or tag them in your appreciation post, someone else who might love their work can see your posts too and give you a follow too. If you’ve got a way with words, you can share how their work inspires your own projects — and then folks who love their work will have a reason to follow you, too. You’ll also want to find and engage in groups on Instagram or Facebook dedicated to what it is you do—similar genres, similar crafts, similar services: whatever you may offer, you want to join groups dedicated to them. You’ll also want to scope the group out a little bit before joining, because you might not align with their overall governance, rules, or even morals and preferences. (Writers, you know the struggle.) Once you’ve found some groups to be part of, you want to be active, not only in promoting your own thing but in celebrating with others, offering advice, helping others out, and asking questions if you have any. 

Is it okay to outgrow those groups, or realize you don’t really “belong” there? Absolutely. It’s not a failure, it’s a learning experience. 

As time goes on, you might even consider creating one such group yourself!

If you’re looking for business partnerships, you’ll want to familiarize yourself very well with that person’s values and branding before approaching them. 

Another great way to network is getting out there to attend conferences related to your craft. It’s a wonderful way to interact with professionals in your field, get “out there” and meet others who are in different stages of business life.  

One warning, though: I definitely don’t recommend the social media equivalent of “cold calling” which is when someone messages you throwing their business opportunities at you and begging for follows or even offering to follow you if you follow them. Please don’t do that. It comes off as desperate or even scammy, and oftentimes it’s a surefire way to be blocked (NOT good for networking or building connections). At the heart of doing this, I think, is a focus sheerly on the numbers rather than seeking out connections and relationships, which is what networking is all about. 

SO with the increasing popularity of social media, how important is it to utilize word of mouth?

I would personally say that it’s still absolutely imperative. Here’s why: I can be in all the groups I want, I can market the heck out of my projects, and I can do everything on social media flawlessly. But when it comes down to it? 

“So-and-so recommended that I reach out to you about your editing services.” 

“So-and-so told me you’re a writer. What’s your new book about?”

“So-and-so sent me a post of yours and I loved it.” 

I’ve heard all those things. And while it can certainly be disheartening from a marketing standpoint (I spent nine months marketing this and nobody saw it ‘til someone told them about it?) it’s proof-positive of how critically important it is to network and build a rapport with people. Even in your negative responses, i.e. when you might have to reject a potential client, a sale, or something, or if you’ve got someone lowkey stalking your page or being obnoxious (it happens), it’s important to keep it professional and compassionate. Likewise, it’s important to be supportive and community-minded in your own networking and marketing. People are always watching, and you’ll lead by example whether you know it or not. 

When it comes down to it, your own openness will affect your networking abilities. If you’re not portraying yourself as open and caring—and living that by example—people will know. They’ll know if you’re unapproachable before you do. They’ll know you’re the real deal before you know it yourself. When you’re networking, keep that in mind right alongside the real purpose of networking: not to make a sale, not to get “out there,” but to build community.

No Comments Yet, Leave Yours!