A writers guide to networking events

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?”


Filed under Phil, Writing

4 responses to “A writers guide to networking events

  1. Like you, Phil, I’m a bit introverted and it took me a bit of time at networking events when running my design consultancy, to pluck up the courage just to walk up to strangers and introduce myself. Over time I just didn’t worry about it and plunged in. Fortunately my partner (now my wife) talks to anyone, anywhere, anytime and was very good about selling our design and marketing services. We joined BNI – business Networking International – who organise breakfast meetings. You get a minute each week to present your business and every couple of months 20 minutes to give a more rounded presentation. There is about 30 local business members per Chapter (it’s American) and you pass around request/referal slips at each meeting. When we closed the agency down over half of our business was generated by BNI.

    • If I’m honest, I’d quite like a world where everything was a bit more formal but nowadays a lot of business is carried out this way. The thing is that once you get started, it becomes easier. I like the sound of the formal run around the table, this gives people a structure to work with which is a lot easier than free-styling it.

  2. Interesting read, Phil. I’m an introvert and always felt awkward at networking. I tried my best at attending and interacting but still felt awkward at it. Even today I can make myself attend one. Interestingly enough, I have no trouble interacting on social media. One of my favorite “friends” on Facebook is my favorite author and I enjoy interacting with writers and learning from them, while at the same time I enjoy interacting with new writers and sharing what I know and have experienced. Perhaps it helps to attend a live event with an instigator, an extrovert who can goad one into speaking up?

    • The events I’ve been to have always started with a talk & Q&A from the authors and a chair. Networking follows if you want. The WWM event was billed this way and so I was surprised that people didn’t want to chat afterwards. (Actually, I’m surprised they didn’t want to eat the tea & biscuits as well, but that’s just me). How well I’d fair at an event where there wasn’t the structured bit at the start where we got to know the authors a bit is open to question.

      Social Media is great but I know from experience that it can eat your time and it would be easy as the target of lots of this to be swamped and never do any more writing! However, as Candice has mentioned in the past, it’s another valuable tool. The trick is to ask well thought out questions. Vauge “How do I get published” is too wide to answer but if you do a little research into the author (even attending a talk at a festival but not asking questions) it’s possible to ask a detailed question that is easy to reply to. Kate’s timeline planning for example, would make a fascinating talk on its own and be really valuable to any author.

      The key point is, and I say this with plenty of experience of being at the front of the hall, the “stars” WANT you to ask questions. Getting to the end of your chat and no-one asking anything is horribly embarrasing for all concerned. Don’t feel embarrased at asking, especially if you get the ball rolling, breaks the ice and you can chat afterwards with them.

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