By Janeen Ippolito
No man (or woman) is an island.
This is doubly true in the world of marketing. An essential part of building your platform is networking with other others and connecting with their platforms for mutual benefit. One small voice in the thousands of books published daily will have a real hard time getting noticed. Ten voices, twenty voices, a hundred voices? A thousand? More? All combined?
Now we’re getting somewhere.
So what, you just make friends with other authors. Sounds easy, right? Except for one thing. We often see other authors as the dreaded C-word. Competition. Especially if they’re in the same genre or have similar themes to our own work. Obviously, readers will only choose one, and we’ve gotta be that one, right?
Wrong. Entirely wrong.
Think about how you read your favorite genres. If you’re an urban fantasy fan (which I just might be) do you sit there and say “oh good grief, I can only read one series for the rest of my life! Make it good, people! Fight for my vote!”
Or do you say “Hee! All the shiny books! I really hope they’re all well-written, because then I can keep reading forever!”
As an avid reader, when I see similar books with themes and ideas I enjoy, I get super excited at the prospect of all that awesome reading material. I look forward to the different spins each author could put on my favorite tropes and the fresh characters and journeys I can immerse myself in. Sure, I might not be able to read all the books at once, but I’ll add them to my TBR pile, I’ll list them as “want-to-read” on Goodreads, and I might just buy the books knowing and anticipating that I’ll get to read them in the future. If I’m short on cash? I’ll save, I’ll stalk the author waiting for discounts, and I’ll make sure everyone knows those books are certainly on my Christmas list!
The main thing that keeps readers from buying a book by one author is not similarity to a book by another author. If anything, being nestled in a recognizable genre or trope (or even half-nestled just enough) is a great way to give the reader security in purchasing your book, because they’ll know that certain expectations will be met.
Now that we’ve acknowledged that fellow authors can be your friends and working with them towards mutual benefit can totally be a fantastic thing, let’s get down to business with how you can do so.
1.) Know your genre, your audience, and your brand.
All of these elements are crucial to making sure that you know what you have to offer other authors in terms of networking. It will also help you to get into the right groups where people are all promoting the same areas. Being a speculative fiction writer in a contemporary romance group won’t generally work out so well. Know your brand and own your brand!
2.) Find people!
Attend writing conferences and author events. Attend local writer groups. Join Facebook groups and follow Twitter hashtags (#amwriting, #authorlife, #writerslife, and #ontheporch are some good ones). Again, make sure you are clearly branded so people know who you are and why you’re there. There might be times when you join up with writers where you have some affiliations in common (religious, life experience) and not others (genre, audience). That’s fine if you want the support and if you see some crossover appeal, but be advised you’ll have to be more of an ambassador for your out-of-left field work.
Note: particularly with Facebook groups, follow the rules of the group. There are promo-only groups where everyone just brags about their latest release, but often real, lasting connections are made in groups that encourage community and restrict the amount of promotions. Use discernment and respect.
3.) Make your book the best it can be: story, cover design, book blurb, etc.
Think of author networking as sharing a potluck. If you’re bringing dollar store hotdogs and others are bringing prime rib, it isn’t fair to the people bringing the prime rib, AND if you’re doing a multi-author promotion, your hotdogs won’t look so good to readers. Remember, you aren’t competing with your fellow authors, but readers will notice if some books aren’t as shiny as others. Readers like shiny. Be shiny, and they will make room for you.
4.) Enjoy and recommend other authors’ books in your genre.
Your readers are your tribe, and often they’ll like the same books that you will. Recommending other books that you enjoyed in your genre or a similar genre gives your readers a wide variety to read from and reminds them that you are a fellow fan and comrade, not just someone out to pounce on them with sales all the time.
5.) Make friends regardless.
Regardless of what? Usefulness. Networking can seem utilitarian, so constantly bring yourself back to a place of mutual respect and genuine interest. Don’t make all your posts in groups or discussions at conferences about doing business (unless you have that established relationship). Find points of connection: mutual fandoms, authors everyone enjoys, etc.
6.) Celebrate with your fellow authors.
Share their release days, review their books when you can, promote their discount days, etc. However, only do this for authors that you really enjoy. Don’t feel like you have to do it for everyone. Polite abstention is completely fine. Let’s face: we’re authorpreneurs. We don’t have time to promote EVERYONE. Plus, you’re allowed to have your personal tastes. Just be respectful about them.
Third time I’ve mentioned R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect plays into author networking a lot. Just remember Imago Dei. Everyone’s made in the Image of God. Treat them like it. Also, the Golden Rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Does this mean that kindness will always win the day? No. But it will mean your reputation and your conscience will be clear.
Author networking is a great way to build and grow your platform for mutual benefit. You win, because you get community and connections (and yes, even friends). Other authors win, because they get the same deal you do! Your readers win, because they get even more books to read!
Go forth, network, and be awesome!
Janeen Ippolito is two authors for the price of one! She writes nonfiction writing resources and speculative fiction with monsters, misfits, and mushy stuff. She’s also an experienced teacher, editor, author coach, and the Fearless Leader (president) of Uncommon Universes Press. In her spare time, she enjoys sword-fighting, reading, food, and making brownie batter. A lifelong misfit, she believes different is beautiful and that everyone has the ability to tell their story. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica. This extroverted writer loves getting connected, so find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and at her two websites: janeenippolito.com and writeinsideout.com