DIY: Networking off the Net
August 25, 2011 by Jon.Peters
Whatever Hollywood may want you to think, the “social network” is not exclusively online these days. In fact, by unplugging and entering the community, you can take an important step in establishing a literary presence. In a world saturated by LinkedIn profiles and Facebook likes, a simple meet-and-greet will set you apart. In-person networking is not merely about shaking hands and exchanging cards, either. Whatever your goal–whether to meet writers, sell a manuscript, or attract fans–you may find more success offline than on.
1. Join a Writers Group. After I first moved to Los Angeles to be a screenwriter, and by the second or third rejection from an agency, I knew I needed a support group. The writers group I joined not only served that purpose, but also motivated me to write more and turn in pages each week. With its members’ help, I completed a screenplay, received feedback, and gained enough confidence to even send it to some contests.
Ciuin Ferrin of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, joined the Noble Pen writers group six years ago with all of one short story in hand. She went on to expand that story into a book, adding, “[I] started three other projects, something I never would have dreamed of, were it not for the encouragement offered by my companions at Noble Pen.” She encourages any writer to join with other writers, not only for the literary advice but the encouragement: “Writers groups give members the opportunity to express themselves in ways they may not have thought of.”
2. Conferences, Panels, and Parties, Oh My. Sara Kocek, a publicity and programming manager for the Writers’ League of Texas, helps organize dozens of events around Austin each year, including monthly panel discussions (this year’s theme is “Building a Book”). These are great opportunities to meet other authors, as well as publishing professionals, who often come to speak. Sometimes, these first steps offline may seem intimidating, but Kocek recommends to “just go and don’t worry that you’re not ready, or the manuscript is not far along, or you don’t have right idea. There’s going to be somebody else at that stage too.”
According to Kocek, the League’s yearly “Agents Conference” is a must for authors who seek representation. “It’s a really good opportunity to get face time access” to otherwise elusive power players.
Whatever the entrance fee, writers conferences are a networking must. Consider volunteering. Not only is this less expensive, but will force you to socialize.
3. Take a Class. In Kocek’s words, “Writing is fundamentally an antisocial act, but becoming better at writing is not an antisocial activity.” Many writers, of all ages and experience levels, will retake the classes the League offers because “they just find the experience of being with other writers rejuvenating and useful to their craft.” Even if you are not interested in a grade or going back to school, the assignments can provide powerful motivation to write each week.
4. Join the Community. Alta Peterson, a marketing expert and social media manager, writes that not all networking happens among peers. “Being involved in the community is important,” she notes, “[as is] anything that expands the circle of people who know you and what you do, even if it’s joining a sports team or craft circle.” While volunteering at 826 National–a non-profit tutoring program for young writers–may not land you an agent, teaching a sixth-grader about run-on sentences could improve your prose. Of course, never come unprepared. Peterson adds that “it’s still a really good idea to carry a few business cards around too.”
5. Don’t Turn Off That Laptop Just Yet. Peterson writes that, “Offline often starts with online. For example, anyone can start a Meetup group or try to find like-minded writers using Craigslist.” Likewise, I met my writers group through Craigslist. I was initially worried that because they were total strangers, they would be scary people. But they weren’t, and now I consider them some of my best friends. Whatever your comfort level, preferred medium, or goal as a networker, do not be afraid to give some of yourself to get something back.
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About The Author:
Jonathan Peters is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. He graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in history. In addition to inReads.com, he is a contributor to LAist.com, as well as Next Step magazine. He blogs about screenwriting at http://alternatewrites.wordpress.com and can be found on Twitter @jonpeters87