The number one thing you should be doing if you want to get published, stay published and succeed as a writer? Write? Read? Study the market? Write some more? Revise? All of these are very important, but today I’m here to say that the number one thing you should be doing is (drumroll please)…
Hang out with other people in the industry!
Fellow writers, published authors, publishers, editors, reviewers, booksellers, publicists, you name it. All of these people are wonderful to spend time with for two reasons – firstly, they may open up opportunities for you, but secondly, and waaaaaaaaaaay more importantly, they can become your friends.
We all know the song ‘you gotta have friends’. And not every friend has to have the same interests as you (gosh, I have friends, close friends, who pretty much never read), but friends who love books and words as much as you do are invaluable.
A friend will cheer with you when you get an acceptance – and commiserate when you get a rejection.
A friend will offer advice about where to go next after that rejection.
A friend will share industry news with you – and gladly accept news from you.
A friend will hear of an opportunity that doesn’t suit them but might suit you – and share it.
A friend will spread the word of your latest book, poem, blog post, tweet.
A friend will sit next to you at a conference, or share what they learnt at the event you couldn’t get to.
A friend will read a book/blog post/ article and know that you, too, will be interested, so recommend it to you.
A friend might live on the other side of the country but will still hug you when you meet up, even if it’s been years – or even if you’ve never met in real life.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But how do you make these writerly friends?
In real life, there are lots of opportunities to meet like-minded people. If you are, like me, a children’s writer, you join organisations like SCBWI (there are branches across the world, and lots of stuff online) or the CBCA. You go along to events in your town such as booklaunches or writing groups, or signings – and talk to people. You attend writing workshops or writers’ festivals – and talk to people.
Online there are even more opportunities to ‘meet’ people. Facebook and Twitter are just two of the Social Media tools where you can interact and, gradually build up friendships. It’s amazing how quickly you can get to know somebody, even when chatting in snippets of 140 characters! There are also groups and pages where you can interact with people. Blogs and websites provide even more opportunities.
But, be aware – making friends is not the same as either shamelessly self-promoting or simply plugging people for information. Friendship is a two way street, and while, if you are starting out, you may feel you don’t have a whole lot to offer, you can certainly lend support, or be a cheer squad, or engage in conversations.
Some of my best friendships have been built through both real life events – particularly CBCA Conferences and SCBWI events – and online through email groups, Twitter and Facebook. Through these friendships I have grown as a writer, but, more importantly, I’ve been enriched as a person.
Here’s to friends!