Today, we’re thrilled to have Margaret Dilloway with us. She’s the author of the upcoming novel, SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, (Putnam, April 2015) about two estranged sisters who are inspired and brought together by reading the history of real-life 12th century samurai woman named Tomoe Gozen. She is also the author of the middle grade fantasy novel MOMOTARO (Disney-Hyperion, 2016), as well as THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS and HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE.
Publisher’s Weekly has this to say about How to Be an American Housewife:
In this enchanting first novel, Dilloway mines her own family’s history to produce the story of Japanese war bride Shoko, her American daughter, Sue, and their challenging relationship. Dilloway splits her narrative gracefully between mother and daughter (giving Shoko the first half, Sue the second), making a beautifully realized whole.
For the typical introverted writer, the hardest aspect of the job (besides, you know, actually writing and getting published) is networking. Yes, you have to network in your writing job exactly as you do at any other job. Establish relationships, form friendships, and help each other out.
But this means you have to pop up out of your dark little hidey hole and actually talk to people. (Or at least talk online). Everyone has to do it, because every writer at some point will need help from other writers in the form of blurbs, advice, cross posts, or getting the home address of a new agent (kidding).
Unfortunately, nobody writes the unspoken Rules of Networking down for anyone, so either you’re naturally good at it, or you have to observe and enact the secret customs, or you’re terrible at it.
Now that I’ve crossed the bridge to the other side and become a published writer, I’ve kind of gotten to know some of these unwritten rules. And now I’m on the receiving end of strangers asking me for favors out of the blue. I thought it would be helpful to write some of these rules down. Say them aloud. Discuss them.
The most important thing to remember when you approach another writer is that you want the other writer to feel respected. Ever used that dating app, Tinder? On Tinder, if you express an interest in someone who’s already expressed an interest in you, you can send each other messages. (Disclaimer: I’m not on Tinder. I swear). You might get a message saying, “Hey, beautiful, I want to spank you, meet me at my apartment in 30.” If you’re looking for a long-term mutually respectful relationship, then that message will be a turn off.
Same thing with networking. You want to approach someone with the intent to have a long-term mutually respectful relationship, not with the goal of using them for your means, then discarding them. I mean, take me on a date before you invite me back to your place, for goodness’ sake!
So please. Take the time to get to know the writer a bit better before you start bombarding him with requests for favors. In other words, treat the writer like you would your friend with a truck. Everybody wants a friend with a truck to help him on moving day. People with trucks don’t want friends who only call them when they want to use their truck.
- Approach writers you admire. This means that you’ve actually read his work and liked it. Not just read ABOUT his work, or saw his number on the NYT list.
- Make sure that your work is in a somewhat similar vein. It’s dismaying when you realize that a stranger who’s asking for your agent’s phone number has a) never read anything you’ve ever written and b) writes in a style so foreign to yours it’d be like asking Stephen King to write a blurb for the writer of Beetle Bailey.
- Comment in a friendly and funny way on their posts and blogs.
- Re-post their important announcements.
- Leave only sincere, glowing reviews on Amazon/Goodreads etc. If you think a book was meh, just don’t say anything, unless you’re a professional book reviewer whose professional cred depends on an honest public opinion. Or make sure you’re a really good boxer, should you meet the writer in real life. Writers always remember bad reviews.
- Be an active participant in author groups. Like this one!
- Go to author readings. Buy the author’s book and introduce yourself when you have it signed. Authors can tell the difference between a serious writer and someone who’s only sat down to write for five minutes in her entire life.
- Be yourself. It’s okay if you’re shy. Better to be shy than fake. When meeting an author in person, think of a couple of questions you can bust out.
- Do not send private email messages to writers asking questions you could have answered yourself using Google.
- Do not mass email writers, put them in weird Facebook promotional groups, or spam their pages with links to your book. Unless you want somebody to de-friend and block you and tell their author friends about you.
- Do not comment on every single post and photo, including ones nestled far back into the archives. It starts to feel a little stalker-ish to the typical writers.
- Do not expect the author to have a quid-pro-quo relationship with a stranger. The author did not write to you requesting that you read her book and start promoting it, so don’t be angry if she doesn’t respond by immediately posting all of your work on her page.
- Do not complain publicly when people don’t respond to your unsolicited overtures.
- Do not be insincere.
- Don’t be too pushy. Understand there are a variety of reasons an author might not be responsive. He might be undergoing a private crisis. Be too busy. Dislike your writing, but be too polite to say anything about it.
- Do not ask for a referral to an agent unless that writer knows you really well and has read and enjoyed your work. This referral stuff uses up a great deal of the agent-client currency. It’s like asking someone for a job—if the person you referred does poorly, your boss might think less of you forever.
Okay, you’ve done all that. You’ve worked hard on your craft and building your platform and everything. Now your book’s coming out and you want all these writers you’ve befriended over the years to maybe help you out.
- Email authors privately asking if they want a preview copy, and, if so moved, perhaps give you a blurb or at least write good stuff about the book.
- Ask that they repost your links to your books, giveaways, and so forth.
- Try to meet people in person when they’re in town, or if other authors live in your town.
If you are a nice, friendly, likable person, it’s highly likely that the writer will remember you and think, “Sure, why not?” and help you out. If you went around annoying people, they will probably ignore you. As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So try to make people feel good about their interactions with you. You might consider this to be purely business, but remember that business is based on relationships.
Believe it or not, a majority of published authors—at least, the ones I’ve encountered—are nice, helpful, and mostly introverted folks. We know what it’s like—in fact, we’re still going through the same thing ourselves.
So remember that networking relationships grow naturally, like friendships—and like friendships, they should be supportive, kind, and respectful.
Any additional tips you have to share with your fellow writers? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t?