Networking with Purpose and Sincerity

Pebbles on the BeachIt’s natural for writers to want to spread word of our work. We all realize that, short of hiring a publicist, we’re our own best champions. But if we go too far, or are too single-minded in that pursuit, we can come off as boorish and arrogant.

To do it successfully, keep some things in mind.

  • Push the good stuff. In an ideal world, everything you have appearing is amazing and wonderful, but if your experience is closer to mine, some stories are stronger than others. Pick the best, and when you’re mentioning that you’re eligible for something, point to those and not to an exhaustive list of everything published that year. Presumably you’ve got a bibliography available somewhere on your website (here’s mine, for example), and if anyone wants to see everything you produced, they can check that out.
  • Pay it back, in spades. Want other people to feel inclined to spread word of your stuff? Then make sure you’re doing it for them. If you read a story you like online, point other people to it in a blog post or on whatever social network you use. Drop the author a note and say why you liked it. Don’t sit back and expect glory to come your way, whether or not it’s well-deserved. Make nominations and recommendations, and vote. Go to other people’s readings. If you’ve got to pass up an opportunity, try to steer it towards someone that needs it. You don’t need to be insincere about any of this. Praise the stuff you like, and if you’re having trouble finding it, you should be looking harder.
  • Monitor and maintain connections. Pay attention to other people’s events and celebrate their victories. Just be a decent human being, and life will be better overall (at least, in my experience. If you’re a personality type damaged by human interaction, take all of this with a suitably-sized grain of salt.) This is part of paying it back, really, but it’s more than that. It’s being aware of the people around you. I stress it because I’m bad about it and it’s something I’ve been trying to be extra mindful of lately.
  • Listen more than you talk. This helps with maintaining connections. Remember that sometimes communication isn’t about what’s being said, but about the act of performing it. Time is one of our most valuable commodities – to say to someone that you want to share yours is a valuable thing. (But at the same time, remember that other people’s time is just as valuable to them. What you view as quality time spent with them, they may think of as time they could be spending on something else.)
  • Eyes on the prize. As with so many other things in life, time spent doing this is time spent not writing. If you’re thinking of networking as a career-building activity, make sure you’ve got an actual career to build on. The greatest network in the world won’t do you much good unless you’re actually producing something.
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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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