The more you know as an author, the more successful your book can be, and while you can read books and attend lectures about writing and publishing, the best and most enjoyable way to learn is from your friends. In the book world, networking, which is really just about making friends, will make you both a better writer and a better marketer of your books.
Many writers are shy, but when it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing your book, you have to think of that book as more like a child and be a nurturing, caring, and—when needed—assertive parent. That means, you have to find out what is best for your book, and you can do that by talking to other people in the publishing industry—learning from other parents of books.
You might start as early as when you are just thinking about writing a book to get advice from people, but definitely start when you have finished the book and it’s time to find a reliable editor, printer, distributor, or people who offer any other services you may require or want.
You won’t know unless you ask, and I’ve found that people in the publishing world are the nicest people imaginable, almost always willing to be helpful. Even in cases where you need to pay for services, you can find people who will go out of their way for you so you are provided with the best service and quality possible.
Join a Group
Start by joining a local writing or publishing group. If you look, I bet you will find one. Look online for groups in your city or state. Look in the newspaper. Ask at the library, bookstores, or the English department at the local college. A group probably already exists, but if not, start your own group. Put a notice in the newspaper that a group will meet. Hang up some posters around town, especially at bookstores, English departments, libraries, or coffeehouses where potential writers are most likely to see them. You may attract a bunch of amateurs, but you’ll probably find at least one person who has written and published a book. Soon you will all be learning from each other.
Even if you find a local group, don’t neglect finding an online group. Yahoo groups and MySpace have many writing groups and forums for starters, and many similar places exist. The book-publishing world is large, yet small, and the Internet is making it smaller. Simply by participating in an online group, you can meet people from all walks of the publishing industry, including writers, printers, publishers, editors, book reviewers, distributors, bookstore owners, and website designers. You’ll quickly find that people are only a couple of degrees of separation from each other, and if your friends are not their friends, they soon will be. The biggest names in the publishing or self-publishing industry probably know your friends’ friends, and many of them will be happy to help you if approached the right way.
Ask for Help
So you’re ready to publish your book. Now that you have all these friends, ask them what are the best ways to do it. Do you self-publish or look for an agent, use print-on-demand or offset printing? Depending on your book, one option may be better than another. Just because one author tells you something worked for him doesn’t mean it will work for you. Especially ask for help from authors who have written books similar to yours.
Don’t Expect Things for Free
No one likes a freeloader. Don’t expect someone who makes a living by reviewing books to read your book for free. Don’t expect a professional editor to edit the first three chapters of your book for free. Many people who provide services to authors may be willing to read a chapter of your book, or edit a few pages to help you out, but they also deserve to make a living. Don’t bombard a fellow author with requests for help. Be willing to help him in exchange. If you don’t know how to help, ask him what you can do to promote his book in exchange for his assistance. For example, exchange books with each other and post reviews on Amazon, or offer to print a testimonial from an author on your book listing his name and book cover to give him some publicity. A “You promote my book, I’ll promote your book” mentality can go a long way toward creating mutual success for author friends.
Ask for Referrals
Before you purchase any service, ask your friends for recommendations. If none of them have ever heard of X Printers, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use that company, but if three of your friends recommend Q Printers, then you are more likely to be in good hands using that printer. Let the printers, website designers, publicists or anyone else know that your friends recommended them, and after they do a good job for you, let them know you’ll recommend them to other authors—that way you’ve made friends because they want to do a good job so they keep getting repeat business.
Ask for References
Make sure if you are going to hire the services of individuals or companies, and your friends are not familiar with them, you ask for references. Then you can call the references, and besides getting information about the company you want to hire, you can tell the references about your book, and they might also give you other pointers you hadn’t thought of before. Call three references and make three new friends who might also spread the word about your book.
Make Friends Outside of the Publishing Box
Beyond your friends in the publishing world, many other people exist who can help you make your book a success. Make friends with the mailman, the people at the post office (you’ll be mailing lots of books), people in bookstores and gift shops (where you might sell your books), people in TV and radio, people who operate festivals and craft shows, and don’t forget your dentist, barber, hairdresser, optometrist (not only can these people tell a lot of people about your book, but they might let you leave a review copy in their waiting rooms or lobbies so all their clients will see your book). The garbage man might not seem like the best friend to have, but if he knows a few hundred people in your town and starts talking about your book, you might start wanting to buy him coffee.
Offer Help to Others
Once you get your book published and people start noticing, you’ll find a lot of people coming to you who want to write and publish themselves. You can tell these people you’re too busy to help them and send them off, or you can offer them your help and in a year or two, you may find they can help you, whether it’s sharing the cost of a booth at a book festival, or buying advertising together, or just sending other people your way. In time, you might branch out from being an author to being a consultant, editor, or book reviewer and growing your own business because a few people asked you for help. Trust me, I know many authors who ended up owning their own businesses as a result of helping out other authors and finding that their services would fill a need.
Will Rogers famously said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Treat everyone you meet with that kind of enthusiasm. Sure there’ll be a rotten egg along the way, but if you keep your energy up and are excited about your book and share that excitement with others, you will attract readers and friends. Not only will you end up having the best in the business help you to produce the best book possible, but you’ll also have a quality book to make you proud, and some wonderful people in your life who will support your
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.