Writing is a career notorious for its solitude, and the oft-“introverted” nature of those who pursue it. While there is a bit of truth to the introspective, self-reflective components of writing that are required, authors need to be diligent about building an author network. Author networks provide social support and discussion about current works-in-progress. They also connect you to industry advice and opportunities for networking and publication avenues. Recently I was invited to be an author in attendance at CokoCon 2018, a sci-fi and fantasy convention held in Phoenix over Labor Day weekend. Not only was it a fantastic way to sell some books and meet some potential new readers, but I had the chance to connect with several local authors and editors for possible collaborations and friendships. It got me thinking about the myriad of ways I’ve met writers and editors over the years, and how these connections have provided much-needed comradery and discussion about a profession that can be quite isolating. I wanted to share my recommendations for the three most effective in-person methods I’ve found so far in terms of networking, writing, and critiquing opportunities, and fostering a long-lasting support system so that other authors might benefit from my personal experience.
1) Building Your Author Network With . . . Book clubs
Local book clubs at stores, libraries or on websites like Meetup are a fantastic way to befriend readers and those who have connections within the author community. I have been attending a local science fiction book club for about two years now, and not only has it introduced me to some fantastic books a little outside of my normal reading genre, but the friendships I’ve made have led to invitations to local conventions (like Cokocon!) and the chance to hear some seasoned and passionate readers’ opinions of popular sci-fi books, characters, plotlines, etc. that I can learn from in terms of my own writing. Find local book clubs through your nearest public library directory, at Arizona independent bookstores like Changing Hands and the Poisoned Pen, or on Meetup.
2) Building Your Author Network With . . . Conventions
Conventions, or “cons” as they’re often called, are gatherings of like-minded individuals who get together (usually over a long weekend) to celebrate and share their interests in a specific topic that the con entails. Cons dedicated to comic books are likely the most well known in terms of these events, but many conventions both local and international invite authors to sell their books and discuss a variety of topics on panels. At Cokocon I met over a dozen local (and some non-local) authors and magazine editors during and after panels, and made some wonderful connections over social media. These were treasured interactions that might lead to future work collaborations and will always be a source of fun and friendship; I’ve even met up several times with another local author who I learned lived down the street from me! I can’t stress enough how effective local conventions are in terms of meeting others in the industry and fostering supportive friendships. Find upcoming cons easily with an internet search.
3) Building Your Author Network With . . . Phoenix Public Library free writing classes
One of the incredible opportunities available across Phoenix is through our public libraries’ free writing classes taught by local Arizona authors who have been invited as the author-in-residence for a specific timeframe. I met NYT’s bestselling author Suzanne Young through this classes, and not only received invaluable writing and publishing advice, but made a close friend who I see frequently at conventions and book signings. Find upcoming classes online at your local library’s website.
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