Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Return to Truly Social Networking

Isn't it redundant anyway?
Remember when the term "networking" had everything to do with being social, but nothing to do with online "social networks"? It wasn't that long ago (Friendster [Facebook's grandfather] started in 2002). Nowadays, though we appear to be "connected" to more people, for the most part, we are further away in terms of "connectedness." In my arsenal of connectivity, I have 2300 Twitter followers, 3600 Pinners following my boards, 317 Facebook fans, and 80+ blog followers. Now, assuming some overlap, there may be ~4k-5k folks I'm "connected" to. Out of that, there are perhaps two dozen I recognize immediately through various online networks (outside of friends and family, of course) and consider colleagues who converse and share thoughts. That's a pretty poor ratio, methinks, but probably not a rare one. We like connecting, but conversing and actually making a connection is a very different thing. Are you tired of it? Well, guess what? The old-fashioned method still works.

Who needs to network in person?! That's pretty much how I thought of it when I first self-published two years ago. At the time, I didn't think that actually rubbing elbows with fellow authors was anything more than self-congratulatory excess. It couldn't possibly produce the same results that being connected to thousands of followers could. And, until this year, I had done very little in terms of getting out and meetin my fellow authors.

Then, back in March, I stumbled across Meetup.com and found a local writers' group whose sole purpose was to get together and write. Plain and simple. It might sound strange, but it's exactly what I needed. A place to go and be surrounded by others quietly tapping away on their keyboards. I've met some wonderful folks and, in the process, was directed to another group of local authors.

The New Jersey Author Network is a group of traditionally- and self-published authors from around The Garden State. It's goal is to connect local authors with local reading groups and libraries. By doing so, it provide authors with opportunities to sit on discussion panels as well as potentially present on topics related to writing and publishing. It also seeks out book stores where authors may be able to have signing events. Membership is free and while there are members who are more active at pursuing opportunities, all members are encouraged to go out and create the kinds of events they want to attend.

Since joining a few months ago, I've attended one signing event, have another set for August, and will be conducting my first industry topic solo presentation in September. Outside of the group, I've also scheduled another two signing events for September and October. I've also agreed, tentatively, to be on an independent publishing panel in the Spring of 2014 (check out my schedule of upcoming events here). While most of these events are open to outsiders, the group has certainly made these opportunities more easily accessible. It has also inspired me to seek out potential opportunities at my local library.

So, get out there and rub a few elbows. Trust me, it won't take anything away from your "lone-wolf" author persona. As independent authors, we need to be open to as many networking opportunities as possible. Besides, you might meet some great people and, equally important, you might find some new channels through which you can market your writing.

Have your own story about traditional networking success? Please share!