Monday, August 25, 2014

Pointless Networking

Copyright © 2010 Carrie Lofty
Originally published by 1st Turning Point, 2010

When I first started attending conferences, both at the national and regional levels, I did so with clear goals.  Primarily, I attended workshops to better hone my storytelling skills and scheduled pitch appointments to secure a few precious minutes of face time with an editor or agent.  In later conferences, I expanded to presenting workshops or sitting on panels.
My experience in attending conferences this spring has been very different.  I have an agent and I recently sold to Pocket, so the pressure of pitch appointments has dissipated.  But that doesn’t mean conferences are any less important than when I was just starting out—and I don’t just mean promoting my newest release.
I call my current conference task “pointless networking.”
I don’t mean that networking is pointless.  Far from it.  Networking is quite possibly the single most important task you can perform outside of refining your skills as a storyteller.  Instead, I mean networking without a particular goal in mind.  This sort of networking is literally “without a point.”  There is no way to quantify it, no goals to meet.  But everyone should try it!
For example, I went to dinner at the Romance Writers of America national conference last year with a large group of romance readers and bloggers.  My goal for the evening was to make a good impression on these influential women.  I happened to sit next to a fellow historical romance author with whom I’d never have the opportunity to make a good connection.  Over dinner we talked about our respective works in progress.  This was social time, where she and I simply shared our enthusiasm for our current ideas.  I had no indication that the conversation we shared for roughly an hour would come in handy.
But now she and I share an editor.  I was able to email her with questions about her experiences and generally solidify the relationship that had started at the accidental dinner.
The same accidental process has taken place numerous times, even though I’ve only been actively working toward publication for a few years.  My friendly online interaction with the blogger led me to an on-camera interview sponsored by RT Book Reviews.  The positive impression I made on the woman in charge of that interview has since led to more opportunities, and I’ve been able to introduce her to author friends seeking promotional prospects.  I made one such introduction in April on the dance floor at the Ellora’s Cave party at RT!
Good connections are never wasted.  And whether you make those connections online, on the dance floor, in the bar after hours, or in a more formal setting like sitting on a panel or pitching your manuscript, all of them have the potential to bear fruit.
My advice, then, is this: When interacting in any professional forum, maintain appropriately professional behavior.  However, don’t forget that the writers and industry professionals you meet are also human beings.  If you can connect with them as people, you may be able to make a lasting impression that provides more than simply a night’s entertainment.

So buy a round of drinks and tell silly jokes.  Be yourself.  Have a nice time—within limits, of course—and remember that when it comes to networking, nothing is ever truly pointless.

Since 2008, RITA-nominated and RT Reviewers’ Choice-winning author Carrie Lofty has over twenty books to her name—or four names, to be precise. Currently with Pocket, her historical romances have been described as “nuanced and superbly realized” (The Chicago Tribune), while her “Dragon Kings” paranormal series, written as Lindsey Piper, is “sexy, brutal and somehow innocent” (All About Romance). In May 2014, Carrie celebrates the release of her first New Adult romance, Blue Notes, featuring a shy piano prodigy and a New Orleans playboy.
As Katie Porter, all five of Carrie and co-writing partner Lorelie Brown’s “Vegas Top Guns” contemporary erotic romances received 4½ Stars from RT BookReviews. They have been honored with a Reviewers’ Choice award for Best Erotic Ebook, and the first m/m nomination for RT’s Book of the Year. Back-to-back releases of their La Femme Nakita-inspired military romance series will begin in May 2014 from Samhain.
During her junior year abroad, Carrie lured an unsuspecting Englishman to the Midwest, where she’s kept him a happy ex-pat for sixteen years. With two pre-teen daughters and a master’s degree specializing in Old West outlaws, Carrie is a movie buff, a former ballroom and bellydancer, and a woman in desperate need of a maid service.






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