Phil: After our trip to the Writing West Midlands networking event last weekend, perhaps I might offer a helpful guide to others heading to this sort of event or literary festivals. As the introverted half of the team, I’ve studied the subject closely.
Short version: Go and talk to the authors. They are lovely people and if you are genuinely interested in how to write, they will be happy to explain.
Long version: After the short talks and Q&A sessions last weekend, I was struck by the actions of the 25 or so people in the audience.
Team NolanParker headed towards authors Kate Long and Liam Brown like a pair of networking seeking missiles. We chatted with Liam for a while and then Kate and Liam and then Kate while someone else collared Liam. We also chatted to Prof. Rod Griffiths from Black Pear Press.
The topics of conversation we generally about the non-writing stuff authors have to consider – marketing and promotion for example or the idea of a book as a product and not just a wonderful collection of words.
There was time to follow up some of the points made in the talks too. I’m fascinated by the timelines Kate draws and Liam dropped in the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever heard – which, if it works, I’ll blog in a week or two.
Everyone expressed interest in what we were doing and a thoroughly good time was had. Book people are generally really nice people.
I bought one of Kate’s books and would have bought Liam’s if I hadn’t run out of cash, but fortunately there is still Amazon for that. We were so engrossed that the free tea and biscuits were ignored. Good job there was cake afterwards!
So what of the rest of those present?
Well, for the most part they either left quickly at the end or chatted to each other. A few bought books but didn’t talk even when encouraged. Several of the people had obviously come as groups and at one point I looked back and those left were huddled in the seating. Hardly anyone joined us.
Surely this misses the point? You can network with people you know any time. Here we had authors who had taken the time and trouble to come and help us aspiring writers follow in their footsteps.
I see this at literary festivals a lot. Most of the audience only wants to sit politely and listen then buy a signed copy of a book. That’s fine – except when it’s a session for people who want to write a book. There’s lots of routes to publishing and I want to find out about all of them. Hopefully that way we’ll find the one that works for us.
Chatting to people at events can be daunting but the panel expect to be talked to and will be disappointed if they aren’t. Go for it, you never know what you will learn.
As an aside, one route to being published is simply to become famous. I leave you with this snippet from the Popbitch newsletter:
Everyone likes to scoff at Joey Essex (and we’re really no exception) but there’s no denying that he tries his very best to treat every experience as a learning opportunity.
For example, when he was in the pitch meeting for his book at Hodder and Stoughton, he decided to ask the literary experts around him a question that had been bugging him for ages.
“What is fiction?”