How to Network in Publishing
During my recent #MarketYourMarketing workshop I opened the floor to questions, and one question that appeared quite frequently was ‘how do I network?’ Well, I thought I would answer that question with my tops tips on how to network in publishing.
There are many ways to network in publishing, from online communication to attending events. It’s a matter of finding your people, and to do that you must first research. But, trust me, the researching portion is fun, quick, and easy.
The top platform online to find publishing peers is Twitter. I swear, nearly everyone in publishing has a Twitter account. We love words! And Twitter is a platform specifically for sharing words and opinions.
Unlike many other corners of Twitter, publishing twitter is safe and comfortable. Everyone is approachable and there are a lot of online events you can get involved in as a publishing professional and as a writer, blogger, and general book lover.
My first tip on how to research is to:
Go onto Twitter and follow the publishers you’re most interested in. I.e. are you interested in fiction or non-fiction publishers? Do you want to work in literary fiction (high-brow, award-winning novels) or commercial fiction (every day, genre-led fiction)?
When you’ve followed the publishers you’ll likely get a lot of Twitter suggestions to follow people who have tagged that author in their bio. These are the professionals that work there. If you’re looking to get into editorial, follow the editors, and if you’re looking to get into marketing follow the marketers etc.
Many publishing professionals put their job title and their publisher in their bio, to make it easier for their authors to find them as well as to network.
Join communities online
There are also newsletters you can sign up to, like The Publishing Post or @publishing_post on Twitter, and the more general societies like the Society of Young Publishers (@SYP_UK, they also have regional/wider societies like @SYP_Scotland and @SYPNorth etc) or the Publisher’s Publicity Circle or Book Marketing Society.
Whilst these societies usually include paid-for membership you can still network and communicate with them for free via social media. Plus, they will still share resources and advice online for free.
When you’ve joined these communities it’s really easy to start networking by replying to their posts, retweeting or sharing their call-outs, and generally getting involved. They are aimed at publishing professionals so I guarantee there is content on their platforms for you to get involved with.
Get in touch
When I’m asked ‘how to network’ by entry-levels publishers, my go-to answer is this: get in touch!
I guarantee you that no one in publishing will begrudge you getting in touch with them: by jumping into their DMs or emailing them directly. We all started somewhere.
The worst someone can say to you is this: ‘I’m afraid I’m too busy to chat’, or they will simply not reply. I’m not going to lie, sometimes this does happen – particularly over busy times in publishing like London Book Fair week OR when lockdown suddenly strikes.
That doesn’t mean you should give up.
Informational interviews are also possible, and very popular in the USA I’ve discovered. An informational interview can happen over coffee, via Zoom or in a publisher’s office. I’ve done a few, where I’ve invited entry-level publishers to HarperCollins for a chat for about an hour.
Normally these informational interviews take place over lunch or in the mornings before work. They’re extremely casual because, despite the title, they’re not interviews. They’re practice runs but there is absolutely no pressure as you’re not going for a job. You’re simply networking and expanding your knowledge.
In these get-togethers, you can discuss anything related to publishing. For me, I’ve talked about my career path. I’ve also helped an entry-level publisher make an informed decision about the roles they applied for i.e. sales over editorial. Discussed skills to develop, how to ask for a promotion, and or a pay rise. It’s an effective way to kill two birds with one stone, network, and develop your knowledge.
And all of the informational interviews I’ve ever done started off with an email or a DM. Just try it.
Go to Events
Obviously, right now this is harder than ever. Events are not running, get-togethers and parties are being postponed left, right and centre.
However, when things return to a new version of normal – hopefully by next summer – these events will start happening again. There are the big ones like the London Book Fair that happen in Spring, not to mention book festivals and literary conventions like YALC.
However, there are a lot of smaller events too, run by publishers, associations, and societies. Society of Young Publishers are always doing some sort of event to help young publisher network, but there are also events such as the monthly Borough Book Bash which is a free get-together of publisher runs by Sam Missingham, in London Bridge.
Also, look into events run by BookMachine, which is a skill-based publishing network for exec-level and above – but still useful for entry-level publishers from time to time.
And don’t neglect book events such as book festivals like Cheltenham, Bloody Scotland, Killer Women etc. As well as events run by associations like the Romantic Novelist’s Association and Crime Writer’s Association.
Search ‘publishing’ in Eventbrite for webinars and skill-sharing sessions, like my #MarketYourMarketing. There are events everywhere and they are a great time to network and get to know people.
Don’t be afraid
And finally, don’t be afraid. I know it seems scary, and it takes practice but anyone can networking.
At events, it’s far too easy to slip off into a corner with a warm glass of Prosecco and hover on your phone for an hour. But bite the bullet and say hello to someone, anyone! One hello and you’ve networked successfully. It’s as simple as that.
I’ve found that going into a networking situation with a few questions prepared is the best way to kill the nerves. My go-to questions are:
- So where do you work?
- What are you reading right now?
- Are you involved with this event/society/association?
- How long have you been in publishing?
The one guarantee at networking events in publishing is this: everyone reads books. You can always ask about books and you’re guaranteed to start a conversation.
Good luck! And if you ever see me at an event come and say hi! I’m always up for a chat, even if sometimes I’m the one hovering in the corner with a warm glass of Prosecco.