Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Building Buzz in YA...Networking!

A lot of my friends call me the Queen of Networking and make jokes about how the Six Degrees of Separation to Marley Gibson. Well, Kevin Bacon I'm not, but over the years, I have put myself out there over the years getting to know people, talking about my writing, and promoting my upcoming books.

So, what is networking? And what does it mean to “market” oneself? Well, let’s look at some definitions:

Networking: To interact or engage in informal communication with others for mutual assistance or support.

Marketing: Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, services, organizations, and events to create and maintain relationships that will satisfy individual and organizational objectives.

Everything we do in our writing career is the equivalent of marketing and networking. And to get published, you have to offer the business (the publishing world) your product (your manuscripts). You can never get bought if you don’t complete manuscripts and send them out into the world for judgment, rejection or acceptance. Your manuscripts are what you have to offer and what you bring to the market. We all have something unique in our writing and who we are.

When we look at our writing life, we should look at ourselves – Susie Writer – as a company. And that company is offering as a product: Manuscripts by Susie Writer. And your target audience for your product is agents and editors . Or, if you’re already published, your target audience is obviously your readers and booksellers. If you can think in these terms, then you’ll see that everything you do as a writer, every story you craft, every conference you attend, every contest you’s all part of your company’s marketing plan.

Here are some ways to network you, your books, and reach that teen audience you desire:

  1. Conferences: if you can afford it, attend as many conferences as you can. First of all, it’s good experience to get out and amongst other writers who share your goals and desires and understand your dreams. Also, at conferences, you have the opportunity to meet agents and editors in an environment specific to pitching, sharing ideas and getting requests. It’s also good to get your name and face out there. See and be seen. Meet your fellow writers and put names to faces. Depending on what you write, there are also conferences like Book Expo America, DragonCon, ComicCon, etc., where you can drill down to a more targeted audience to tell them about your book.
  2. RWA Meetings: in this industry, getting involved in Romance Writers of America is a beneficial thing all the way around. Go to meetings, mingle, meet people, sit with new friends like we’ve done today. Go to other chapter meetings for fun. Your circle of friends and colleagues will grow and you’ll continue to get your name out there. And because you're writing YA books, these contacts you meet are likely to have young children who could act as readers for you or help spread the word like an advance team about your upcoming books.
  3. Entering Contests: if you’ve polished and shined your manuscript and think it’s got a chance of finaling, why not toss your manuscript into a contest? If you final, you get your name and your manuscript title and genre on loops galore, in the RWR and most times, on the chapter website. People starts seeing your name and the titles of your work and will soon be looking for them on the shelves. More and more RWA chapters are having YA categories and are recognizing the growth in the genre. If you don't enter, offer to judge and help other writers out with their craft.
  4. Website: no matter what stage you are “at” in your writing career, I highly recommend a web presence of some sort. Yesterday's post addresses this more thoroughly. A live journal, a blog or a simple website. Purchasing domain names is cheap through and server space per year runs about $30-50 depending on the provider. Also, once you’re published, you’re going to want a website, so why wait? Published authors should use their website as the best, most effective marketing tool they possibly can. Host contests, message boards, giveaways, post news on where you’re speaking, when you’re book’s coming out, what’s coming up. That is your marketing space that you pay for and you should make the most of it. Create a writer’s blog (they’re free) if you’d like, but make sure the information is fresh, interesting and keeps people coming back. Before you know it, you’ll have built a fan base. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a web designer (or be lucky enough to be married to one, like me!), but you can find templates and free software on the web to help you get started. You can even team up with fabulous other writers to blog together. Hmmm...wouldn't that be a great idea? LOL!!
  5. E-mail Loops and Message Boards: Now, while loops can suck you into the frenetic lives of others with “disease of the week” or “my husband doesn’t understand me” or what not, you can make loops work for you. Don’t get sucked into the politics or bitchiness that loops sometimes spawn. Instead, use your time on the loops to network, get your name out there, be helpful to others, show your knowledge of a particular subject. And always, sign your name. If you have a blog or web address, include it. Some lists have upwards towards 800+ people or more...this is an excellent opportunity to get traffic to your site and introducing yourself “cyberly” to others. Again...these women you meet online can talk up your books to their kids and their friends' kids. Also, get your name out on MySpace and Facebook where teens hang out and visit. You'll be amazed at the response you'll get from your audience that way.
  6. Become an “expert” in something: you might think this is easier said than done, but think about it...everyone in this room is an expert on something. It may be DNA research or behind the scenes at a television news station, but it may also be surviving cancer, mastering calligraphy, how to bake a kick ass birthday cake or the nitty, gritty details of gardening. Everyone’s got a platform they can stand on and give help out on. Make a list of the things you know about or do well and drop that information into conversations, share at meetings or volunteer through e-mail or loops. You never know who you’ll be helping, whose book you might appear in the acknowledgments for and then how that can return to you. I think of Simone and how she speaks to school groups all the time (we'll have to get her to blog about that one day) -- she puts herself out there and gets her name in front of her audience.
  7. Write articles: once you find that thing you’re best at, write an article about it. Did you have a particular light bulb go off in your head about creating the perfect hero...write about it. Do you have knowledge of starting your own website...write about it. RWR is always looking for submissions, as are many – all I dare say – of the RWA chapter newsletters. Whenever you write an article for an RWA newsletter, chances are pretty high that the editor will post your story to EditorLink to be picked up by other chapters. Get your name out there by writing something you know that will help or interest others. Don't just submit to the RWA. Find teen publications that might be looking for short stories or advice on something or contributions. This would be a great way to reach out to teens through their own channels.
  8. Be professional: just as you would in a “real” job, take things seriously. Be the best person you can be. Don’t backstab or snark behind people’s backs. Or, if you absolutely have to do it, do what Niki Burnham says and “keep it in the vault.” Always be professional in every sense of the word. Present yourself professionally. Dress well. Groom. Take care in your appearance when you’re out and about meeting people. It’s said that people take six seconds to make a decision about you upon a first meet/first impression. Now, that’s definitely wrong, but it’s how things work. So, always make sure you’re putting your best foot person and on e-mails and loops and blogs.
  9. Relationships: form trusting, giving relationships with your writer friends. Help your critique partners, nurture a new writer, support a friend who’s battling the demons of self doubt, help promote other writers with reviews and book recommendations on Amazon or B&N (nice ones!), congratulate people off list on accomplishments to start forming new friendships, hell, even pitch your critique partner’s book to an editor and help her get a six-figure happened?
  10. Follow up: After meeting editors, agents, new writer friends, finaling in a contest, do good follow up. Send e-mails letting people know it was nice meeting them. Send thank you letters to judges in contests. Send hand written notes to editors and agents you meet at conferences. It goes a long way to setting you apart from the pack, showing you were “raised right” and that you have manners. Chances are, they’ll remember your name again in the future. Good follow-up is key to making the networking opportunities work best for you. If your teenage fans take the time to write you a letter or send you an e-mail, don't let it go unanswered. Let them know you appreciate their support! Never take great feedback from anyone for granted.
  11. Be Yourself: above and beyond every thing...remember to be are a unique and wonderful individual and if you put yourself out there, people will want to get to know you, support you, help you, cheer for you. Remember...karma does come back to you. Just be the best person you can possibly be and you’ll be rewarded.

I hope this information is useful and helpful to you. As always, please feel free to ask any questions and we'll be happy to answer (the best we can) and help out.

Thanks for reading today!

Marley = )

SORORITY 101: Zeta or Omega? (Available Now! Puffin Books)
SORORITY 101: The New Sisters (Available Now! Puffin Books)
GHOST HUNTRESS SERIES (Coming May 2009, Houghton Mifflin)


C.R. Evers said...

great info! Even though I'm not published, I like to think that I'm getting a head start with networking. I've met so many great people this way! This post helps remind me that I'm on the right track! :0)

stephhale said...

Great advice, Marley! :)

Lenore Appelhans said...

Great tips. I love going to conferences when I can.

TinaFerraro said...

Marley, this is an amazing profile on networking! Thank you for this.

Just one little thing that I'd like to add is whenever I give a really high score to a contest entrant, I sign my name and e-mail. Several times I have received correspondence from them, and a few times, it's blossomed into very nice friendships, where we've ended up doing nice turns for each other. A great way to network!

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Awesome tips Marley!