Sunday, 14 June 2009

THE IMPORTANCE OF NETWORKING

As promised below we have a guest. Novelist and fellow blogger Lisa Glass talks about, well, the clue’s in the title really.


Networking. It’s a gross word really. Gives me chills. Naturally, I hate the thought of networking; at its worst it reminds me of the nights I’d spend as a promo girl wandering around heaving city centre pubs and clubs, angling up to people who didn’t want to be interrupted so that I could offer them free samples of toothpaste or aftershave (which would be ‘downed in one’ by the drunkest). It’s that sense of wanting to be invisible but feeling compelled to intrude, and generally hoping for someone to come to the rescue by being bored enough to notice your presence and thus prevent you from having to clear your throat and bellow, “HELLO, I WAS JUST WONDERING IF YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN …”

And yet when I think about it, if it wasn’t for networking I’d probably still be sitting at my laptop with a glass of neat Malibu, manically clicking the Send And Receive button, whilst waiting for my first agent to email me back.

Without networking I wouldn’t have discovered my publisher, Two Ravens Press. After my first agent unsuccessfully tried to place my novel, I joined a writers’ networking and critiquing website and a member posted information on a new publisher of cutting-edge literary fiction that sounded just right for Prince Rupert’s Teardrop. I emailed the press, sent the work over and a few weeks later I had a book deal. It felt wonderful and very empowering to have found my book deal myself, but without an online acquaintance posting the details of this exciting new press, I might not have had my first novel published at all.

Likewise, without networking, I wouldn’t have met my new agent, or the authors who kindly volunteered the cover quotes for my book. Without networking I wouldn’t have met Leena, the founder of the literary blog, Vulpes Libris, and I wouldn’t have been invited on board as a reviewer. Without Vulpes Libris I wouldn’t have received the hundreds of free books that have come through my letterbox. But more importantly, I wouldn’t have had a platform to interview newspaper literary editors, publishers and authors – interviews that have widened my circle of peers and colleagues considerably.

Simply put, without networking, I’d be in the shit.

Because it just so happens that I do not live in London. I do not know hordes of literary types. I do not have ‘connections’ and there is no old school tie to see me right (my school tie was a six-inch long fabric skeleton knotted in a ‘peanut’). I live in a small Cornish town with only a few thousand people in it. There are no literature festivals happening here and it’s not what one would consider a hotbed of book launches and literary salons. We have one library and a broom-cupboard-sized W.H.Smiths.

So I’ve not come here to advise people on how they should go about writing their books, or how they should approach literary agents – there is plenty of that going on all over the internet as it is, some of it deeply unpleasant and condescending. But what I would say is that being a writer is a lonely profession. Reaching out to fellow writers has kept me sane. And courtesy of networking, I have been able to help other people: through sharing contacts, through critiquing work-in-progress, through reviewing published books and through lending an ear to stressed-out acquaintances in times of struggle. And when I’ve needed them, those people have been there for me. Networking has truly given me a much needed net to fall back on, and in this business that’s something we could all do with.

Come to think of it, without networking I wouldn’t have met Tom Vowler, who kindly invited me onto this blog.




Lisa Glass is the author of the slightly surreal and very dark literary thriller, Prince Rupert’s Teardrop, and she is Co-admin of Vulpes Libris. For more about Lisa visit HERE.

10 comments:

mydogsgotnonose said...

Oh what a relief to find there is a writer from the same planet as me. I don't live in London either, nor am I in any sense connected. To find that there might just be a way to find an audience for my stories beyond the bogus competitions of the vanity press industry is really encouraging. Thanks Lisa, I no longer feel so disenfranchised and will make new efforts to reach out.

mydogsgotnonose said...

Oh what a relief to find there is a writer from the same planet as me. I don't live in London either, nor am I in any sense connected. To find that there might just be a way to find an audience for my stories beyond the bogus competitions of the vanity press industry is really encouraging. Thanks Lisa, I no longer feel so disenfranchised and will make new efforts to reach out.

Jackie said...

I would think online networking would be excellent for writers, though I believe most would think of the social aspects first. Your post shows how it can have practical, business benefits too, which I would think encouraging to other writers.
Networking also helps in other creative fields. As an artist, I've made connections & sales that wouldn't have been possible without being online, so I'm a big proponent of the idea of using computers in this regard.

Moira said...

Interesting post. I'm not a natural networker by any means, but I'm another one who's stuck out in the middle of nowhere, and without my computer I'd be completely cut off from any sort of artistic community. Thanks to computer networking, I do things and know people that would have been completely beyond my reach just a few years ago.

Lisa said...

To mydogsgotnonose (great name!), thanks for those kind words and the very best of luck with your writing and with reaching out. I always think that it's worth trying these things, and if nothing comes of them then at least I know that I gave them a whirl and I'm not left thinking 'what if I'd just tried...'

Jackie and Moira, the internet has been so useful. My prospects improved hugely when I got broadband. For someone who was initially deeply sceptical of the internet, I have come to realise that it is in fact a great ally.

RosyB said...

Great post. I was just thinking how apt the word "networking" is these days as so much info sharing and basic support can be found...on the net. I think the net has opened up a lot of possibilities to writers living outside the big cities. Not to mention all the Ezines and short story outlets and bookblogs and book commentary and comps etc to be found online. Not so much networking in a standing-in-a-party-trying-desperately-not-to-choke-on-your-nibbles-with-nerves situation as just throwing oneself into the melee.

On the other hand, there is a lot of advice swishing around that can be misleading, wrong or just plain confidence-sapping. I've read loads of advice treated like gospel online which is not true or helpful in my opinion. There can also be a lot of arrogance online and new hierarchies created which can be depressing. People on the net don't have to take so much responsibility for what they say sometimes.

I'm also not sure that endless online critiquing from strangers, from example, is as important as some people might like to make out. I think feedback and critiquing is too important and delicate a thing for a writer and that advice from strangers on the net is NOT necessarily any better than from an intelligent friend whose taste and attitude you know. (some people would shout at me for saying this...:))

Book said...

I enjoyed this, Lisa. I live in a non-English speaking country and internet networking has kept a lifeline to the English language open for me. I have progressed with my writing, I contribute to Vulpes Libris and I have made some precious friends.
Like you I'm a bit uncomfortable with the term networking because I thought it implied an insincere attempt to get ahead but in my case it has broadened my horizons immesurably.

Mary

TOM J VOWLER said...

Those are good points, Rosy, so I hope no one shouts at you! There's a balance to find, I think. If all the networking, blogging etc starts to affect how much writing someone does, it needs culling.

Samantha Tonge said...

I couldn't agree more, Lisa. Four years of networking may not have yet got me a publishing deal, but it has brought me lots of other things and a bunch of supportive virtual friends along the way.

You can't write in a vacuum nowadays and expect to see yourself in print.

Great post.

N Lumiere said...

It seems you have a sad and serious interruption. Sorry.
What stops me writing is a mystery. One day I'll be batting the keyboard like a banshee, turning out page after page, the next I'll just sit staring at the screen, playing Gemdrop and drinking Evian all day. It seems to have nothing to do with location or what's happening or not happening in my life. But what absolutely works to get me writing like crazy, is a busy schedule, lots of other things to do––then my writerly brain leaps into action.