As soon as I heard about Eroticon I knew I had to be there for the networking possibilities, but when I first started writing I didn’t really understand what the value of networking for authors could possibly be. Networking was something I associated with suited business folk, scurrying around with heads full of marketing jargon and a stack of shiny business cards. It was different for us creative types. We’re judged on the words we produce, right? Everything can be done online, and we can hide away from prying eyes while tapping away our smutty little stories.
Well yes, that’s true, but after two years of attending every relevant author event I’ve been able to get to—from my local writing group and RNA Chapter meetings to larger events like the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet and Festival of Romance—I have a confession to make: I’ve become a networking floozy.
For networking, though, read “making friends”. That’s all a network is, after all: connections with others in your industry, which might well lead to future collaborations or information shared. So, here are five things I’m happy to have learnt from my networking experience:
1. Writers love to gossip.
I think this is one of the main occupational hazards for us! By our very nature we’re observant, good with words and bloody opinionated, yet we have to behave ourselves online or we’d soon get a reputation and possibly shunned by publishers. However, when it’s off the record and we’re enjoying a chat with another author, all kinds of things might be revealed. I’ve had a few timely warnings about publishers I’m very glad I heeded, as one of them has since gone bankrupt. I’ve also learnt about contract negotiation with certain publishers—something I’m keeping in the back of my mind for the future.
2. Editors are people too.
I used to be scared of editors, and I’d never have dared submit a story to any of the Cleis gay erotica anthologies if I hadn’t met one of their editors in person. He reassured me that stories from openly female authors were perfectly welcome, and emailed me the call for submissions for his next anthology project with them. I knew from my conversation with him that he’s a major anglophile, so I wrote something quintessentially English for him, which he accepted.
I’m not saying that editors will accept your stories simply because they’ve met you—they’ll judge the work on its own merits—but you’ll probably find out a few of the things they’re looking for and if you can fit that in with what you want to write, then so much the better!
3. If you can drink with someone you can probably work with them too.
I don’t think I’d ever have dared suggest putting together an anthology with four of my fellow authors if I hadn’t already met them in person. The potential for falling out in a creative project like this is huge, and the consequences could be disastrous. However, I knew they were all lovely people and that we could work together, without the risk of anyone trying to pull rank or becoming a stroppy diva. As it is we enjoyed it so much, we’re doing it again this year!
I honestly have no idea if there’s anyone out there who has bought my work simply because I’ve spoken to them in person, but I’ve certainly bought books by other writers I’ve met because I liked them so much. I do know, however, that I’ve made many wonderful friends and learnt some of the industry secrets that are usually kept under wraps. I’ve also found a proofreader I use for my self-published stories, and have had plenty of useful tips on marketing from more experienced writers. I’ve also had some fascinating conversations about the creative process which have definitely helped spark my muse. I’ll be bringing him with me, by the way, although I doubt the rest of you will be able to see him.
But most importantly of all, I’ve learnt that the craft of writing doesn’t have to be as lonely as it might first appear, and that the new friends we make at events like Eroticon will still be there for us even when we’ve all made our way back home—they’ll just be at the other end of an email or tweet.