The Author Networking Series, Part 1: How to Kill It With Kindness

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As the challenge of making a living off self-publishing rises, the authors who find success must bring something extra to the table. In the old days, publishers and publicists handled all the interaction authors needed, while the scribes could mostly lock themselves in their studies to do their best J.D. Salinger impression. The times they are a changing, and now the authors who are able to craft strong relationships with their peers are often the ones who come out on top.

In the first part of this author networking series, we’ll talk about the importance of taking a little bit of extra time to add kindness to your interactions with other authors. Between writing, editing, cover design, and publishing, it sometimes seems like there are only a few minutes left to connect with people. While it may be because of this time crunch or a lack of etiquette, authors tend to rush these introductions. In the process, they come off sounding rude, unprofessional, and dispassionate. There’s a certain way to build relationships with your peers that will give you the best chance of turning a stranger, into an associate, an acquaintance into a friend. Here are four rules you should follow when it comes to networking with authors and influencers:

1. Don’t Beg For Help

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Have you ever had one of those one-sided friendships where the other person was always asking for favors and setting up your social encounters? If so, do you remember the palpable sense of annoyance whenever you saw his or her name on your Caller ID? Flash forward to the present and think about how a successful author or podcaster feels when you send a one-sided pitch email asking for help, promotion, or advice. Most emails of this ilk are completely one-sided and they’re either discarded or politely pushed aside.

When you send a pitch email to someone you’ve never met, online or otherwise, you’re not going to have a very high chance of success. When you want to benefit from a relationship with someone, asking for something right away is never the best course of action. First off, you need to follow this contact on social media, see what he or she is up to and interested in, and introduce yourself in a way that doesn’t come off as needy or parasitic. Like the title of the article said, you need to kill it with kindness.

2. Use Praise and Provide Something

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Big-time authors or other people with clout receive dozens of pitch emails every single week. To stand out from the crowd, you need to go in a different direction. It’s easier than ever to make a connection with someone online and show your gratitude and kindness. While it takes some time to leave a few comments on the person’s Facebook account or provide something noteworthy through a tweet, interactions like these show a person that you care. Authors get so much negativity through low-rated reviews or work they’d rather not do. A little bit of praise goes a long way.

Of course, your words shouldn’t be empty ones. You need to actually mean what you say, otherwise your efforts will come off like the compliment of an ugly hat. Honesty is the best policy with interactions like this, and there’s no need to be a used car salesman about things. You’re not trying to game the networking system. You’re trying to make friends.

One of the ways that you show your genuine intentions is by offering to help your new connection. After spending some time commenting on posts and retweeting tweets, you should feel comfortable emailing this author, but only if you have something to give them. In most cases, this offer takes the form of a service you can provide. Maybe you can whip up some high quality promotion images using your graphic design skills, or you have a background in coding that you can put to use by designing a cool shareable widget. We’ll go into providing a service in depth in a later installment of the author networking series, but regardless of what you offer, it should be something that helps the author in his or her business. You also need to make sure it’s a task you’d enjoy doing since this may be an offer you make to multiple potential connections.

3. Take Time to Learn and Listen

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You may be asking yourself, “If I’m going to offer something to a big shot author, then how do I know he or she will even want what I’m pitching?” The answer is that you need to do your homework. When you’re contacting people from a random list, it’s unlikely you’re going to know their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. That’s why you need to pick a select few people who you’ll follow on social media, listen to their podcasts, and read every word of their blogs. By taking the time to learn and listen, you’ll know exactly what it is you could provide to improve this author’s business.

Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, this process isn’t very scalable. You can try to learn and listen to 50 different influencers at once, but your efforts are going to be extremely divided. Some of you might say that’s going to take way too long. Well, networking isn’t something you can rush. Besides, focusing on the two or three people who you genuinely want to help should allow you to narrow down your top connections anyway.

4. Make One-on-One Connections

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Authors who try to send out 1,000 emails at once in an effort to mass produce the networking process are bound to fail. All of the connections you try to make should be one-on-one. When you take this focused, targeted approach, you’ll actually be able to help these authors to strengthen their businesses. You can only develop relationships like that with time, energy, and patience. These connections are the ones that will mean the most to you going forward, and they’re the ones that are most likely to come back around and help you in the end.

Getting One Key Can Open Many Doors

When you forge a strong relationship with an influencer, you’re more likely to achieve the goal of the guy or gal who sends out a thousand emails at once. A successful author who sees you working hard for him will likely want to return the favor. In some instances, this takes the form of introducing you to the people who will help you to thrive. There aren’t any shortcuts to this process, but a little bit of kindness can certainly go a long way.