WFC – Building Professional Relationships

They listed this as “relationship building” or some such and I think most of us thought this would be a forum on character relationship building. Not so.

But not disappointing either. One of the foibles of many writers (and I’ve been guilty of this too) is our lack of interest or ability in forming professional relationships. Some of us can barely stomach the thought that people are reading our precious stories, let alone talk to those people after they’ve done it.

Being around the BFF has made me more of an outgoing person, because I was able to watch her seemingly flawless skill at connecting with people. She’s been in sales for years. Couple that with her natural love of people, and boom, her skills dominate.

Last year and this year too while attending the Writing for Charity conference I noticed the majority of writers I met seemed about 0% interested in networking. When I asked them what their story was about, they transformed into the wary cat, guarding the precious food it just found. That or they gave me that look, the what do you want look. That’s not all of them, but it was a lot of them.

NETWORKING

If you can’t see the point of networking and connecting with other authors, then I’m sure this question has crossed your mind: What can other authors do for me? It’s not like they’ve got an agent either.

True, some may not. But you’re approaching the point with completely the wrong attitude. Networking and building professional relationships isn’t about what that person can do for you, but what you can do for them.

Let’s start with a quote from the forum:

Every opportunity has its root in a relationship.

Remember that phrase it’s not what you know but who you know. Although what you know is important and will take you far, who you know is equally as important. You’re probably still wondering how getting to know other aspiring authors is going to get you published.

Stop it. Stop that approach. Focus instead on what you can do for them. For me, in the beginning, it was that I knew networking and building relationships would at the very least bring me into the circle of my peers and keep my motivation running. But while networking, I met a friend who introduced me to all kinds of things I hadn’t know about Twitter. Hashtags like #myWANA #Row80 and #wordmongering now entered my hemisphere, all because I was willing to open my mouth and say hello.

I also tried to be his motivator and he was mine, and we checked in with each other on our progress. Friendship. Karma. If you give help freely, help will be given freely to you. I always learn something new from networking.

OKAY, SO HOW DO I NETWORK?

Wise words from the forum:

Think marathon rather than sprint. Build a network.

Be in it for the long haul. Blogging helps keep you connected with your community. And your community very much helps keep you connected with your goalsβ€”if you’ll let it.

LIKABILITY

If you are likable then you are innocent. The presenter said a judge challenged her on that and she said, “Oh really, how many people have you sent to jail that you’ve liked?” He thought for a moment and said, “None.”

If you’re liked, you are innocent. How is that helpful? Well that means people will stand up for you, vouch for you, believe you, and want to help you succeed.

She said with first impressions 55% first image comes from face & body; 38% sound of voice, 7% actual words. So, if you’re really trying to market yourself, how are you presenting yourself to the world? What does the way you dress communicate about you? Your appearance? Your blog? Etc.

A year from now, how do you want to be remembered? The presenter went to Marine Biology Camp one year as a teen. She was a nervous know-it-all and at the end of camp someone had written a poem where the famed line was “because I’m right” something she’d said extremely often. People laughed. Even years after the event had happened, people still remembered that obnoxious know-it-all, even though that wasn’t her intention.

Her other example: the Pirate Jacket. She and her friend were meeting an agent whom they discovered loved garage sales. The agent was from the east coast in an area where they don’t have them so often and she was thrilled by the idea of shopping at a garage sale. So she and her friend went to a garage sale and found her this pirate jacket, then gave it to her, and she loved it. Now the agent remembers the nice girls from Utah who were so thoughtful and gave her something she loved. Decide how you’re going to be remembered.

TRUST

How to earn trust in 30 seconds or less:

  • Make eye contact
  • Be genuine
  • Be competent
  • Look trustworthy (dress the part)
  • Remove the walls

Don’t tell me everything you know. Tell me what I want to know. Be helpful, just because. The pirate jacket is a just because moment.

And last of all, she presented the friendship scale. Think of the people in your life. Where would you place them on the friendship scale? Where are you on the friendship scale?

Freak – don’t like you
Fan – like you
Friend – like you and remember you
Fave five – like you, know you, and trust you

Okay, well that does it for notes from the Writing for Charity conference. I hope you’ve been able to find lots of useful tidbits to take to your own writing. More notes to come from the Storymakers conference I attended last weekend.

Do you think it’s important to build professional relationships? How has networking helped you already? How do you approach networking? Did your geek-o-meter explode when you saw Batman and Robin doing the Death Star run?

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19 thoughts on “WFC – Building Professional Relationships

  1. Thanks for taking the time to summarize. All good things and yes I think you hit the nail on the head with think not what this person can do for you but rather what you can do for this person. Hummmm seems we have heard that before. πŸ™‚

  2. Ron seems to be enjoying that beating too much. It’s oddly mesmerizing . . . I think I just lost an hour of my morning.

    Personally, I think networking is the most important tool for an author. If you’re approachable and friendly then people will gravitate toward you. Readers will buy your books with the intention of asking questions, so they may give it a deeper read than if you were some distant figure. Authors with more and less experience will come to you for various reasons. Being able to give advice from experience and accept advice can create a reputation as an active member of the writing community. Even if you don’t get readers, you get a bunch of friends.

    • Hehe, he is enjoying it a little too much isn’t he? I think these days too readers want more interaction with authors because we live in that kind of society. Gone are the days of hiding in the home hoping people will admire you. Yes, your writing must be top notch, but like you said they’re more likely to engage with you if you’re not trying to be a distant figure.

      • Maybe we’ve hit a point where people want those they love to be more human instead of unattainable. Like how in early James Bond movies, they refused to show him bleed even if he was shot or took a massive bleeding. Eventually, fans wanted Bond to be more human and show that he’s been injured.
        You can see some of this in regards to some celebrities who are openly in their own world of wealth. They have fans, but their distance causes a lot of people to not really like them as human beings.

  3. So even if Harry Potter can’t be used as an example, it can be used as an illustration… *mental note*

    Ugh, networking. I understand the need, I’m just terrible at it. I try to be approachable, and I think it works out OK… on my blog, or Google+ hangouts, or facebook, or… well, just not real life. If you’d talked to me at that conference I’d have been happy to chat with you about our books, but I’m not good at reaching out to people. I’m just kind of awkward with that. Unless people find it endearing, it’s a bit of a wall. πŸ™‚

    Definite yes to doing things for people because you can, not because you’re going to get anything out of it.

    • Oh, Kate, if only you knew… the notes that are coming… Sooo many Harry Potter examples… I even mentioned to a conference friend that it’s been decided that Harry Potter is the perfect example for everything.

      As for networking or chatting people up. It takes practice. I used to be the kid that hid behind my mom’s legs. I’ve pried myself out of my shell, bit by bit. Sometimes it’s exhausting. Often it’s easier if you make it more about them than about you. I try to be for them the person I’d want to be talking to in that moment. Seems to work fairly well. Although there are still Draco Malfoys to be found everywhere. (Ooops! Slipped in another HP reference). πŸ˜‰

  4. I thought I would hate networking, then I tried it, and low and behold, it’s not so bad after all. Actually kind of fun. And I LOVED the batman and Robin doing the Deathstar run…. so does that make me a total geek?

    • Um, part of me can’t stop watching it and the other part is filled with a delight that never dies. It’s almost an overload of geekiness, don’t you think? Like you couldn’t think of anything more delightful?

  5. It’s taken me a while to be comfortable with networking. I figure every person I meet, author or not, may be a connection that will help either of us in the future. And what is wrong with gaining more friends?
    I think one important thing is to be the welcoming person that makes other people feel more comfortable, and ask them questions about themselves.
    A basic principle I try to live by is that most people are nice people, and are probably as shy as you are.

    • Yep. I agree. I think we’re all a lot more shy than we let on. My BFF I always sang high praises of for her seemingly natural ability to connect with people. When she revealed she used to be a shy person and still is sometimes, my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe it. But it showed me, more than anything, that the skill of networking is something you have to work at to be good at, much like that other skill we’re all working so hard on. πŸ˜‰

  6. Reblogged this on Kori Miller Writes and commented:
    Another very useful post by Jae over at Lit and Scribbles. What do you think about writers building professional relationships? As a business owner, I find it invaluable. I love partnering with other small business owners and connecting with our customers at local farmers markets. This is The Tea Trove’s tenth year. We wouldn’t have made it this far without building great relationships with a whole host of amazing and talented people. In my mind, being a writer and building a healthy writing career isn’t any different than building our other businesses. Weigh in! Leave a comment over on Jae’s page.

  7. It’s funny how often your “professional relationships” can turn into friendships. But I think this is important advice for life in general, and not just for building a writing career. Thank you for sharing this!

    By the way, I was totally distracted for a little while there just watching Snape smack Ron. πŸ™‚

  8. Jae, good post. When I first started using social media and writing my blog, folks told me they made some great friends through the Internet and I didn’t understand it until I started opening myself to others and commenting on their blogs. Then I ventured into promoting other writers through my Author Wednesday series and everything started to blossom for me. It’s been a wonderful experience to help my fellow authors. And guess what? I’ve gained some wonderful friends in the process.

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