Wednesday, June 1

How to Show You Mean Business

Writers can no longer live in the idea that we write our stories and then sit back, watch our novels hit the bestseller lists, and see our screenplays become blockbusters. Nor should we want to. Writers need to network and understand the publishing industry. We need to know how to market and we need to make it happen.

A writer can be as whimsical and withdrawn as they want but when it matters – when the future of your work is at stake – then it is time to show you mean business.

That's an easy enough spiel to give but the question is: How?

When I say "business" what is it that comes to mind? I think: suits, handshakes, briefcases, hair products,cologne, and of course business cards.

When you first contemplate getting into the business side of writing, you might be a little withdrawn. After all, doesn't it subtract from the romanticism of it all?

Another way to think of it, though, is that this is the pathway to your potential readers. This is an opportunity for you to step out and take a look at who might be willing to read and enjoy your writing. I think that is far more romantic than sitting back and waiting for it to happen.

Writers aren't naturally business folk. We don't need to dress up in suits – though they are fancy – to get things done. We can still use our creativity and our writing to network and get through to people. There are several mediums that authors are now using to connect with readers and people in the literary industry.

I'm not just referring to debut authors and aspiring authors. Authors who have been around for years, writing plenty of bestsellers with huge fan bases, aren't just sitting back and taking the chance that their loyal readers will be enough. They are delving into new opportunities and staying current.

Here are a few ways that you can join them.

Blogging

Anyone can start a blog, so why are they so special? The reason is that blogging is a gateway to get people to notice you. You write something and then you leave it open, for people to read and comment on.

A blog isn't just a place to ramble and dictate your own ideas. It is a place to express your passion for something and allow others to join you and discuss topics that you like. Writing and reading (such as here at Quill Café) are just some of those topics.

Being able to express your interests and connect with other bloggers, by reading other blogs, commenting and responding to people who comment on yours, allows you to form a connection with other people who are on your wavelength. Sometimes it might feel as though it is hard to get through to people who aren't professional writers themselves. When you are a blogger, you don't have that problem.

Twitter

When I first learned of Twitter, I thought it was just a celebrity-stalking vessel. Now I know it to be a brilliant and easy way of connecting with people. Those people could be fellow writers, bloggers, or eager readers. They could just love something that you love like hedgehogs or Doctor Who.

Twitter is not hard to keep up to date with. There is no elaborate profile or information that you need to worry about. It isn't something that you have to write massive amounts on, so it is very easy to use and manage alongside your other duties and interests.

If you are confused about Twitter, then I suggest checking out The Writer's Guide to Twitter by @inkyelbows. It helped me a great deal in learning how Twitter functions and how to use and enjoy it the best I can.

Business Cards

Having a business card never crossed my mind in the past. It was something you had if you belonged to a company of some sort. It seemed like a fuddy-duddy thing to have if you were a writer, especially if you're not a freelancer of any sort. I certainly never entertained the idea of having a business card for a blog.

I was wrong. Business cards are not stale little card-paper things with names and addresses on them. Oh no. They are little stars that you hand out with your impressions. When you come into contact with someone, it is easy to forget a name or a face but if you leave them with a business card you leave them with a tangible memory. They look at it and think, Oh, I remember! You want them to remember.

I attended Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention in 2011 and those little cards couldn't have been handier. They weren't smug things that said, Look at me, I'm a business card, contact me now, they were little tokens of a meeting to be exchanged. Mine are simply for Quill Café. They don't even have my name on them, although that might be something I rectify in future.

A business card isn't something to flaunt you or your blog. It isn't a gateway to take from anyone or expect any extravagant opportunities to be handed to you. It is an offering with no expectations. It is a wonderful thing to have.


Conventions


I haven't attended many conventions, only the ones stated above, but I have found them to be very postive. Book conventions are a place to connect and socialise with authors, publishers, avid readers, book bloggers, and more wonderful people that you otherwise might not have even known existed.

The people who attend these conventions, no matter who they are, can be some of the loveliest and most interesting people you will meet. They are human beings just like you (even the authors, they are actually humanoids – who knew?) and you don't need to be timid or maul them.

There is the idea that conventions are the best place to make connections. While it is true that you can make many connections there, it is not a take, take and take scenario. Plenty of industry professionals are timid for good reason because they can be ambushed by writers wanting something from them. I went simply as a blogger and a humanhobbitnoid. I think it turned out quite well.

Attitude

Attitude may not seem like something you can put in your pocket and carry around with you but boy, does it stick. Not just to you but to whomever you are making an impression on.

Impression. It's a very permanent-sounding word. When you push something down into a sponge, it stays there for a while. If you mould clay, it can be perfect or a flop. When cement dries, you might see little paw prints that will never go away.

You never quite know how permanent these things are going to be and so you have to be careful, but don't spend all your time panicking and twenty-second guessing yourself. Meeting new people is a wonderful and exciting importunity, not something to be feared.

In the end, remember that making connections isn't all about me, me, me and selling your writing. It is about showing people who you are and sharing your interests. It's not just business. It is personal.

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