When I say the word "networking" to a room of authors, two things happen:
- Most assume we're about to discuss Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- Everyone else averts their eyes and begins fiddling with their smart phones.
Like sales, networking is the bane of many an author's existence.
But networking is a skill that often means the difference between success and failure for authors.
Admittedly, when it's volume you're after, be it 5,000 followers or 25,000 email addresses, social media is invaluable.
However, when you're searching for a core group of committed partners for your book launch, a co-author for your next project, or in-depth feedback on your manuscript, your online followers are rarely your best bet.
At these critical moments, you may find yourself surrounded by cyber fans whose attention span is far too short, and whose connection to you far too distant, to meet your specific needs.
This is when you need to call the people you have met (in the flesh, I might add) at industry events, ideally more than once, and over a period of years.
This is when you need what I call your core network -- the authors, industry experts, and partners -- who will do more than retweet for you. They will blast your book launch campaign to their entire list, introduce you to their most coveted contacts, refer media opportunities to you, and support you with a degree of commitment your cyber network will often fail to deliver.
Your core network doesn't need to be "sold" on the value of your content. They trust your expertise because they already know the most important person in your organization -- you.
As someone who has been successful as an author, book publicist and literary agent over the past 20-plus years, I can tell you that growing and nurturing a core network of truly committed supporters is one of the most important ways you, as an author, can set yourself up for success.
What's more, many authors find they enjoy networking at publishing industry events far more than they anticipated. While I'm always glad to hear that, I can't say I'm surprised by it. Authors, including those who claim to be "shy" or "introverted," are often naturals at networking, when placed in the right environment.
Effective networking, at its core, is about helping people, and few are more inclined toward that than authors. As an author, you do what you do -- develop and share solutions for common problems -- precisely because you are driven to help people. In the right mindset, you will find that your desire to help others is the very force that allows you to cultivate your own core network.
It's a strategy that can literally launch bestsellers.
Take Tim Ferriss, 2-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, who used in-person networking as the cornerstone of his book launch strategy for The 4-Hour Work Week and The 4-Hour Body. By his own admission, Ferriss spent three years cultivating his core network -- at industry events and parties, sometimes over beers. Before his first book was even written, he invested countless hours building legitimate friendships with people in the industry who were then happy to feature his books in their blogs, magazines, email campaigns, and more.
Leveraging meaningful personal connections is a strategy that dates back millennia -- one that is especially powerful today, in our increasingly cyber-cluttered world.
So to all of you authors hiding behind Twitter handlers, or perhaps just your smart phones, I urge you to take the leap and invest in your career by attending, at minimum, two to three industry events every year.
The connections you'll make, the experiences you'll share, and the support you'll exchange will pay ample dividends, both in the results of your book launches and the quality of your life.
Arielle Ford has launched the careers of many NY Times bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch & Debbie Ford. She is a former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books. She is also the co-host of 21st Century Book Marketing, an annual fall event in San Diego, CA where authors have fun networking and learning book marketing strategies from top experts.