Are you reading this before your book comes out? STOP! We’re into the world of networking, and it’s damn hard to write and do this, plus your entrée into the world of networking is your book, so it must exist.

Now, for those of you whose book came out, and you’re promoting the hell out of it, what can you do? Of course, keep marketing it online, write and publish another, but you can start also start networking during that process.

Did you join a writer’s group already? If you did not, you’ll be coming from behind, but you can catch up. Do it. NOW. I don’t mean online-only groups…those can be good but at some point in time will fall apart, and tend not to have conventions and conferences. What we want is consistent face-to-face networking.

Any writer’s group that demands dues, has a newsletter, and ideally is national with local chapters is what you want. They will have monthly meetings. GO TO THEM. Go and talk to other members, get to know them, get to know their books. Gravitate towards the people you know you can forge friendships with, and ideally those whose books are similar to yours.

Next, you should have already joined/started a critique group. Not yet? DO IT NOW. Why? Well, aside from honest critiques from people who know not only your genre but how to write it being invaluable, every member has the same chance you have at getting published, the same chance of making the bestseller list. This means you all have the same chance to have a helping hand to lend a struggling friend, or to be that friend that gets a helping hand. In short: best to get in on the ground floor.

That is step one of networking, in two parts. Make real, true friends in your writing group. Cement a small group of close friends where you can become intimately involved in one another’s writing process. This will become important soon.

Remember: there is a difference between making friends and joining a cult

Now, if your writing group is truly established, each month or every other, you’ll have an actual published author come by to speak. Attend these presentations! Ask questions! Buy the author’s book and have it autographed! Most importantly, IF your group leader takes them out after for drinks, do whatever it takes to be invited. 

This means being on time, paying on time, being always kind and polite, following the rules, being an active participant, and doing what it takes to be on your leader’s good side. Then, when you do get invited to go and spend time in a smaller group with published authors, continue to be polite. Tip servers well. Pay your share. Never interrupt. Let the author speak. Ask them good questions. If you can, try to be funny but never in a sarcastic or snarky way. And NEVER discuss your own book unless directly asked, and be prepared to sum it up in one quick sentence, and its status in the timeline of publishing in another quick sentence.

By doing this, you will make a favorable impression and continue to be invited out. Shove ego aside, don’t be afraid to kiss a little ass. Someday you’ll be the presenter and have your ass-kissed. Remember what goes around comes around.

The modern standard of friendship

You can gain invaluable advice, words of wisdom, and perhaps real interest from someone who can help. Writing is a community, and like all communities, sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know.

Next, if you are part of a chapter of a national organization or a regional, you’ll have an annual conference or convention. This is why you have friends. Go with them! Leave your spouse and family at home. Get a double room at the hotel and split it four ways to lower costs. Brown bag your food, do whatever it takes. Make sure you have copies of your book.

This means you need to have paper copies or numerous flash drives with PDF copies (and ONLY PDF, but keep one on you with mobi and other formats in case someone asks for it). Ideally, have paper copies. This means before attending a convention you need to get to Amazon’s Create Space or Lulu and create a paper copy, and order (paying for them) as many copies as you will need. To figure out what you need, calculate how many publishers/agents are there and print enough copies to give a copy to 33% of them. You will never need more than that at a single convention or conference.

Make sure your friends are on the same page when you attend the annual gathering. You want to attend some of the parties and lectures, but you will want to hit up agents and publishers. Carry copies of cover letters and synopsis for your next book as well as copies of your first. Dedicate a particular time period each day and only carry multiples of these materials at that time as you stop by and chat up agents and publishers. Otherwise carry just one copy of each just-in-case.

Try at each convention or conference to attend any meet-and-greets of published authors. Remember, every other new author and wannabe is doing the same. Remember to be a good listener, that is the way to ingratiate yourself with anyone. Do not ever bring up your books first with an established author, wait until they ask, and again keep descriptions as brief as possible.

As long as you are prepared, groomed, attentive, and charming you will begin to make contacts and friends. Collect business cards and file them away, writing on the back where you met the person and some fact that will help you to remember them. Remembering names is very, very important.

Avoid weird conventions! ALWAYS avoid weird conventions!

Now there are related conventions. For example, science-fiction writers would enjoy DragonCon. Once more, save money, plan it out, be prepared. There may be a few agents and publishers there, this time only bring enough copies of your first book to give out to 10% of them. Any meet-and-greet you can attend, do so. You never know who will become a new friend, or who might have a need you can fulfill, or who can help you with your needs.

By all means at either type of convention, get into any photo ops as possible. If in a large group, try to be front and center. If you’re very tall, crouch down in front. In smaller groups stand with the rest of the people to your right, so you will be on the right side of the photo (the human eye is drawn to the right and subconsciously finds those on the right to be the most important person).

There are also conferences. Conventions are for fans, producers, and distributors, conferences are for producers and distributors. Here you will largely be networking with authors in the same position as you vying for attention with the established authors, agents, and publishers.

Once more, the key is prep work. Know what roundtables and Q&As you will want to attend. Know the subject. Prepare by studying up so you have something to contribute. Bring copies of your first book, enough to supply one to 40% of all the agents and publishers there.

In roundtables never argue with someone. Never insult or deride. When making a statement, make it soft: don’t insist you know a fact, lead with “I believe…” or “It’s likely that…” or “It’s possible that…” Keep your responses short and to the point.

In Q&A ask only relevant questions. Come into it with a list of ten. Cross off any that are answered before your turn to ask. Be quick, to the point, keep all questions at ideally five seconds, never exceeding ten.

It may be adorable, but this is NOT the roundtable you're looking for...

Outside of the formal worlds of conferences and conventions you may have one-off opportunities. You may run into a small bookstore owner who would love to host a reading of your book, you might meet a weekend morning show producer who would love for an author to appear on their show to fill a spot, or any other number of opportunities.

It’s a good idea to have business cards…if you have a publisher. I am very sorry to tell you this, indie authors, but none of these people will give a shit about you until you have a publisher. You don’t have to go through the system with an agent (but it is a good idea at some point), even a boutique publisher (smaller publishing house that accepts direct submissions sans agent) will do. Once you have that, if you plan to actively attend conferences & conventions, you will run a decent chance of having one-off meetings. Business cards can be cheap and simple. Your name, your wesbite, and any major awards should appear.

When you run into these one-offs, give them your card, and do not commit to anything. Take time to think it over. Discuss it with your agent, publicist, and/or publisher. 

Sliiiiightly less tenacity would be ideal

Always remember you are representing your brand when you are networking. You represent yourself as an author, your book(s), your website, your blog, your agent, your publisher. It’s important that you always present a professional face, and remember all these components of your brand.

When you reach this stage, you are stepping into the public arena. Are you an alcoholic? Keep it private, try to cut back or quit. Drug user? Quit that shit, but again, if you just can’t, keep it private. If you hold any view that is not commonly accepted by the majority of your countrymen such as racism, misogyny, homophobia, religious intolerance, a devoted belief in the Illuminati or chemtrails, whatever it is, KEEP IT TO YOUR FUCKING SELF.

Just imagine trying to work with THIS guy

Be polite. Be gracious. Be concise. Be clear. Be professional. Be clean. Be groomed. Be understanding. Be willing to compromise. Be willing to work your ass off. 

If you keep these things in mind, focus your networking on conferences and conventions, keep on writing, keep on promoting yourself and your brand, and build solid friendships and relationships, and stay dedicated to writing, you will make it.

You may not make the bestseller list, that takes a dose of luck, but keep your nose to the grindstone and soon you will be able to make a living writing your books. And after all, isn’t that the dream?

PICTURED: You in 5 years, if you skip any of the post-publishing marketing steps

You have all the tools you need to make it. You will do it. You will succeed. I am proud of you, and I hope you are proud of yourself. And someday, I hope to see you out and about, perhaps at a convention or conference, and I would love to read your book.