2015-09-13

Self-Publishing: Establish Your Network

I just had a 4-star review of Chroniech. The reviewer enjoyed the story but said the editing was horrible. I agree. Chroniech was actually the first book I wrote even though it is the second book of the series and it has never been properly edited. My wife is my grammar-checker and proof-reader, but she did not begin doing this until later in my writing career.

This review highlights why I've put Dragonverse Origins on hold to go back and re-edit the first 3 books of the Galactic Alliance series, reformat the text, redo the covers, and re-publish the series. I have learned plenty in the years since I started writing and it's time for me to present myself as a professional writer.

The editing of Translight has hit the 50% point. I am continuing to work my way through the book, making changes to improve the quality of the experience without changing the scope of the story. When that's done, I will reformat for Kindle and create a new cover. Then the book will appear in its new form.

Establish Your Network
Last week, I wrote about treating your writing as a business. The number of people reading that post is among the highest for any past blog post I've written. Apparently, this is what people want to hear; not random thoughts about writing in general or my progress on various projects, but down-to-earth advice on how to become a self-published author. This week's post talks about establishing a network of writer friends and acquaintances.

Up until July of 2012, I did not know or have contact with any other writers. I self-published my first book in early 2009. That's a long time to be involved in something and not know anyone else in the field. It was too long a time. Writing is a lonely activity, there's no doubt about that. But that does not mean you should become a hermit. For a writer to progress to the point where they can be called an author, that person needs to have a network of people interested in the same thing to converse with.

A network will also give you a sense of being. It's a hard feeling to describe, but it's real. If you love to fly model airplanes, you want to share this experience with other people so you join a club. If you like to read science fiction, you find friends who also like to read those types of stories and you spend time talking about them. Being able to talk about what you love to do is part of the reason why you do it and why you search out others with similar tastes. Writing is no different.

I have learned and grown by more than I can possibly explain to you because of who I know in my personal network. I feel as if I am part of a larger community and I'm involved in something I enjoy doing. No single person can know everything there is to know about any subject. That's why people form clubs and gather together at conventions. Each encounter with another author is a learning experience even if it doesn't feel like it at the time. Humans are social animals and we tend to socialize with others of like interest. Having a personal network of writing-related people will satisfy this primitive desire to feel like you are part of a community.

 So, where to start?

I started building my network when I applied for and was accepted to Launch Pad. That was when I learned the importance of knowing others in the field. Launch Pad didn't just kick-start my network, it opened my eyes to the world of writing. I learned more about what it is to be a writer during that one week in July of 2012 than I did of astronomy which was the purpose of the workshop. But getting accepted into Launch Pad is difficult. Out of 90+ applications this year, Mike Brotherton was only able to accept 14 lucky individuals. Most of these were award-winning authors or editors. If not Launch Pad, then what?

Look around your area for writer's groups and join one or two. Stick it out over several meetings and see if you feel comfortable with them. If not, find another group. You're looking for a group of people you enjoy being around and are willing to provide you with meaningful feedback on your work. Make friends with them. Stick around after the meeting and talk about writing. Find out if any of them have publishing experience or if someone has gone to a convention. You might only find 2 or 3 people you gravitate towards, but that's a start.

Go to conventions. A good place to look for upcoming conventions is con-news.com. Or, you could ask you new friends from your writer's group. Don't do what I did! I started out small and I went to a local convention called MillenniCon which is held in Cincinnati, about a 5-hour drive from my house. I attended the panels (Mike Resnick and David Drake were on one) and learned quite a bit. I spent too much time in my room writing. I should have been hanging out talking to the other people who went and trying to establish contacts.

Satisfied with MillenniCon, I decided to go to DragonCon - one of the largest conventions. I had a great time, and it worked out very well for me, but I don't recommend it for new writers. I had lunch with several authors I met at Launch Pad and they introduced me to a couple other people who are now my friends. But, if I had not known those authors, DragonCon would have been an expensive waste of my time. Stick to the smaller, local conventions. Go to as many as you can. Spend time getting to know some of the people who attend. And, if at all possible, introduce yourself to the panelists if they make themselves available. Some won't, but many will be available for you to approach either after the panel or later during the convention.

Another way to establish your author network is to join online groups or get yourself a Twitter account and follow some authors. I'm not a big fan of this technique unless you are particularly good at long-range relationships. Being able to sit down and chat with a person face-to-face is a much better way to interact than tweeting or messaging a person you've never met. But, if that's all you can manage now, then by all means give it a try. It might lead to something.

There are other ways as well. Attend a writing class and get to know the people in the class with you. Go to an author reading and interact with those who also attend -- some of them are most likely authors. As a last resort, see if you can locate one or two local authors and invite them to join you for coffee or lunch. Explain to them that you're a writer looking to find other authors to interact with. Most writers are more than willing to share their experience with you.

If you happen to get lucky and your network of writing-related friends includes award-winning authors, magazine editors, or movie producers, don't think for one minute that you can use these people for your own gains. These individuals are your friends and acquaintances, not your ticket to publication. Treat them with the respect they deserve. If you know a magazine editor, do not ask for a special review of your story--submit it through the proper channels. If you want to be respected by other authors, earn your place among their rank by doing the work yourself. Don't be afraid of rejection. It happens to all writers. Accept it and move on.

My personal network includes award-winning authors, a movie producer, a Hollywood animator, script-writers that have written for popular television series, magazine editors, and blockbuster game developers. I know people who live in the UK as well as Australia. Some of these people are good friends. Most are acquaintances I stay in touch with. If I ever need help on something or if I have a question that only a seasoned author can answer, they are there to help. But, and more importantly, we all have learned something from each other. I may not be able to list the specifics, but without this network I would be a very poor writer indeed. In fact, I would be just a writer--not an author.