The Burden, Joy, and Necessity of Networking

I have a confession. I am a lousy networker.

I make this admission as I sit behind the Writer’s Digest table at the AWP Bookfair,
and watch people walk past. Dozens and dozens, eventually hundreds … then thousands by day three. Some stop to look briefly, some even pick
up a book, but I’m not much of a salesperson. I’m much better at
answering questions and providing information, and listening. I like to
hear about what resources people need or what they are looking for, and
how I can help. Of course, if I were a good networker and/or
salesperson, I could proactively ask, “So what do you write?” and see
where it leads. But I have this thing where I think I’m bothering

I’ve seen some authors (particularly Michael Martone), who can sell a book
in 2 minutes to a complete stranger, simply through good-natured charm
and charisma. It makes me think that much of salesmanship relates to
personality and talent, though I’ve also been told by very reliable
sources (The Conductor, who moonlights as a Financial Advisor) that
even the least talented salespeople can make up for lack of natural
ability by simply putting in more time, calls, and appointments than
anyone else.

When I think of all the excuses I’d like to make, I
think of author Christina Katz, who has described herself as starting
out in life as a shy introvert, but learning over time to connect with
people (she likes the word connect rather than network—less
intimidating). For her, it’s more about being open to the idea of
meeting people, finding common ground, and forming connections. (You
can read an entire chapter on this topic in her book Get Known Before the Book Deal.)

a side note (but very relevant), Christina was at the TOC conference,
and because she’s able to put herself out there—without expecting
favors, being pushy, or asking for attention—she was mentioned in Chris Brogan’s blog as an example of microfame. Her interactions are authentic and real, and, as she says, she wants to help make good things happen. People respond to that.

So even the most introverted of us (who don’t have a salesperson’s brass balls to take the abuse of a sit), let’s endeavor to say, to believe, that we would like to help make good
things happen. That’s why we connect. That’s why we take the risk of
reaching out. And in the case of writers and authors, it’s essential we
practice this skill, and push the boundaries of what we think we’re
capable of.

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0 thoughts on “The Burden, Joy, and Necessity of Networking

  1. Brandi

    After weeks at trade-shows at which I knew nothing about the content (trust me, I’m not an IT person!) I learned one of the best ways to connect at the event is to ask the person if they’re enjoying the conference. They’ll either have something enthusiastic they’d like to share, or they’ll have something to complain about. As long as you’re not the event coordinator, it’s interesting to be on the listening side of those conversations. Sometimes what they’re enjoying will open up a new direction in the conversation in which you can share more about why you are there as well.

  2. Christina Katz

    Thanks Dave and Nathalie. 🙂

    Jane, I must say, even though I took that photo for my daughter’s benefit…it’s so awesome of you and really compliments this post.

    And of course, now I am dying to see Michael Martone in action. Off I go!

  3. nathalie

    I think the reason Christina is so successful with connecting with people is because she is 100 percent genuine. She encourages students and workshop attendees to keep in mind that building a platform and networking are supposed to be organic in nature which means you really do just need to be yourself – out loud. 😉

  4. dave malone

    Hi Jane,

    Great photo!

    Being somewhat introverted myself, I plan to embrace Christina’s word "connect" instead of network. I think that’s what it is for me, too. And the word seems to harbor less of an agenda.
    Thanks for sharing.


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