Today’s takeover guest is Emma Whitehall, a writer and performer based in the North East. She’s written a wonderfully helpful guide to stress-free networking for writers. It can be one of the most nerve-wracking things for an introvert author to do, but these tips will help you build your profile and contacts in no time. Enjoy.
Networking is a vital part of a writer’s life – it’s far easier to get yourself known if there are people who know you and your work in your corner, backing you up.
Plus, let’s be honest; being a writer can sometimes be lonely work. However, I do know that making friends and connections is easier said than done – I’m an introvert by nature, and sometimes staying in with a good book and a takeaway is more tempting than trying to talk to people.
So, in this article, I hope to present the best – and most painless – ways that I have found to find “your people” as a writer.
Compliments are key
A lot of writers hate the idea of schmoozing, and I totally agree; it’s not socially acceptable to start pitching your new novel within 30 seconds of meeting someone, and usually people can spot a suck-up from a mile away.
But here’s what you need to remember when trying to network: we’re all human. Even that writer who seems like they’re leagues ahead of you, or that poet that just wowed the crowd with their performance. A quick, genuine compliment will do wonders – in all walks of life, I find. If you liked someone’s work, tell them. Chances are you’ll make their day, and they’ll be more likely to remember you.
I recently had a really sweet lady approach me at an event – she loved my work, having seen me at a poetry night nearly a year ago, and did I have any contact information, or a website? It was only then I realised: I didn’t have any business cards with my new email address on them. They weren’t even on order; I’d just forgotten to get some made up. I ended up scribbling my details on a piece of paper for her. Don’t be like me.
Spoken word nights
This is a slightly specific one, but in my experience, worthwhile. Spoken word and open mic nights are filled with talented, welcoming, supportive people. There is always a space for newcomers!
I’ve met some of my best friends through the spoken word scene, and, even though I’m not as much of a stage poet as some, I have nothing but fondness for its special brand of madness. Brush up on your reading skills (you can read my article on reading your work aloud here), get chatting in the queue for the bar, or just sit and enjoy the show – you’ll have a great time.
Writing groups and workshops
Make friends and get work done at the same time! Workshops are a great excuse to get talking to new people.
I go to Vic Watson’s weekly writing workshops at Quilliam Brothers in Newcastle, and I absolutely love it. A lot of my “writing friends” are poets, or spoken word performers, so before I went to Vic’s group, I knew very few prose writers. It’s been really exciting to have a chance to follow other writers in my field – I even found the odd genre fiction author! – as they work on their own projects. And, because we give feedback at the end of each session, there’s always a chance to chat and share tips and tricks.
If spoken word has piqued your interest, performing workshops like Scratch Tyne (run by Apples and Snakes, which operates throughout the UK) are also brilliant.
Use social media
Using your social media wisely is critical in today’s technologically savvy world. No-one likes an account filled with bragging, but online communication can sometimes be easier than face-to-face.
My partner is a perfect example of this. Socially, he can be quite anxious and easily flustered…but on Twitter, he’s a whiz. The amount of work he’s found through social media is astounding.
Keep up to date with people you admire (a like or quick comment serves much the same purpose as the compliments from earlier), find out about writing events in your area, and share stories about the creative process with like-minded people…and, every so often, post links to where you own work can be found.
I am a firm believer that, as well as talent and drive, you need affability to become successful. Neil Gaiman famously said at his 2012 address that “People keep working…because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three…They’ll forgive the lateness of the work if it’s good, and if they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as the others if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.”
And having a community of friends who all love your craft as much as you do – who you can celebrate and commiserate with, who can offer advice and support – is a brilliant feeling.
Learn more about Emma and her writing here.