Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Guest Voices: Networking in Real Life

Networking … in Real Life?!?  That is the daily topic for the day and one that is often discussed in many blogger circles.  How can one develop connections outside of their blog and become more involved in their local literary scene?  Today, we welcome three of the minds behind Armchair BEA as they share their networking stories.

Pam of  Organic Networking

I wanted to talk a bit about networking organically in your community. When my blog was very young I went to my local independent bookstore Hicklebee’s ( and asked to partner my blog with their store. We had a couple of meetings and the owner decided my energy was perfect for a children’s store. I started blogging about deals, and signings, and doing giveaways with ARCs I found on the shelf. I also ran the summer teen book club. What I got back from Hicklebee’s was access to their ARC arsenal and introductions to other literary people in the area, such as the NCIBA president.

The NCIBA is the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association. Every area has one of these conferences. For the past two years (this year will be the 3rd) I have coordinated blogger sessions at the trade show and been in charge of getting bloggers to the conference at a very low cost.

All of these things cascading with my online things led to me getting my dream job as a literary agent. All I had to do was close the lid to my Macbook Pro and walk out of the house and talk to other bookish people and get involved at a local level. Not only was it fun to play bookseller and help a local bookstore, but it was awesome just to leave the house and talk to other people who love books as much as I do but have a sense for the business side of the blogger/publisher/bookseller game as well.

Here are my top five suggestions for offline networking:

  1. Go see your local indie, ask if you can start or join a book club there.
  2. Go to signings and events. I know a lot of us get books for free but don’t forget to be a patron.
  3. Use to see if there are any cool places around you doing book sales for charity. Again, be a patron. If it feels right ask to get involved.
  4. Some libraries will host cool classes like book binding. They also host author events. Go forth and bind a book!
  5. Have fun. All of these things were possible for me (including blogging for four years) because I was (and am) having fun.

I’m a networker by nature. My real-life job requires a good deal of handshaking and connections with people in the community. Soon after I started blogging, I got involved with the local bloggers here in Utah. They organized a meet-up August 2009 and I attended. It’s where I met Natasha, Suey, Angie, and Becky. 

Bonding over potluck.
photo credit: Maw Books Blog

Since that social, we have grown and expanded the group. We see each other at signings and all kinds of book events. But it wasn’t until I went to Book Expo America last year that I really kicked the networking into high gear. I was inspired by the awesome events held by publishers during the week and wanted to get our blogging community more involved in promoting author signings and events. My local library hired a total go-getter as their community relations coordinator. And because of her tenacious awesomeness, they started bringing in some really big name authors. When Ally Carter came to town, we worked together to organize a meet-up with a few bloggers about an hour before the actual signing. This was an opportunity for us to meet Ally, ask a few questions of our own and get some pictures.

photo credit: Fire and Ice Photos

Later that Fall, Simon and Schuster sent some great authors to my area (Michelle Hodkin, Moira Young, Becca Fitzpatrick, and Elana Johnson). We did a reception after the event, and it was a huge success! As we do more of these with authors whose schedules will allow, we get better at hosting. Events aren’t the only way that I work with my local library. Last year I came home with a lot of books from BEA. After I’d read some, or accepted the fact that I wasn’t ever going to read others, I donated a box of them to the library for their Teen Book Fest. So, what does it take to coordinate with your local library? Let them know who you are. Attend events regularly, volunteer, and become their friend. If you know of events in the area, ask either the library or the author’s publicist if you can do an in-person interview before or after the event. You’ll be surprised who says yes. I have done video interviews with Gail Carson Levine and Scott Westerfeld. And it never hurts to ask.

Tif of Tif Talks Books:  Introverted and Philanthropic

Tif with one of her favorite local authors, Susan McBride

Networking can mean a variety of things to a variety of people.  For many, the instant image that comes to mind is of the extrovert mingling in crowds, confidently approaching authors to pick their brains and share their love of books.  However, those of us who tend to be the shy, quiet type avoid these situations and believe that we will never be offered a networking opportunity.  However, being an introvert myself, I challenge you to think outside of those paradigms and begin considering how you may be able network in your own way.

Over the past five years of blogging, I am always looking for new and refreshing ways to expand my blog and ultimately, my love of all things literary.  I have always had a passion for supporting my local authors, both past and present, and this last year I have turned my focus back on the community.  I support my local independent bookstores and libraries by taking advantage of their events as well as showing my support financially by purchasing my books from them.  When my local Independent Bookstore Alliance decided to host their first ever bookstore cruise, I was the lucky recipient of the final ticket.  It was during this day-long cruise that I began chatting with the founder of a local publishing company over lunch, which soon sprouted into the beginnings of freelance writing about my love of the local literary scene.

However, I still wanted to do something more.  With all the chatter about World Book Night and the distribution of free books around the world, a different idea began to form and recently has come to fruition.  Putting books into needed hands is something that I can do, so I launched my first book drive for a local children’s hospital.  I am still in the midst of working out the final delivery details, but this one woman blogger was able to collect approximately 30 books for those children and their families in need of an easy and temporary escape.  Not bad for the first ever book drive, but I can guarantee that there will be more to come!

Though I am not one to boldly approach authors and I tend to hang in the background, I still can reap the benefits of networking.  Whether introverted or extroverted, I encourage you to think outside the box and redefine your blog online and in real life!

As Pam, Emily, and Tif have demonstrated, networking in real life can translate to many things!  Have they spurred your creative juices and got you wondering where your blog can take you?!?


  1. Oh, wow, you guys are doing so many amazing things! Honestly, I got goosebumps reading your posts here.

    I think I might have to see if I can get more involved with my local library. This is a very small Canadian town but we do get a few local authors who come and do readings at the library once or twice a year. I haven't been to any of these yet because they weren't in the genres I usually read, but I might have to widen my horizon just for this.

    So, thank you for all your tips!!! You definitely got me thinking. ;)

  2. Love this post - so inspirational!


  3. Love to hear from the introverted point of view - that's kind of where I took my post today. Great advice!

  4. All great posts, but thanks Pam for the tips, I will definitely be trying to execute some of the library and indie store ones...

  5. You've given us all some great ideas for networking. I have never considered any form of networking other than online.

  6. There are some really great ideas here! This is definitely inspiring me to get a bit more involved in my community and to make more friends around town that enjoy blogging!

  7. Um, WOW! So in comparison I definitely don't network. I am apparently not very creative since none of these ideas even crossed my mind. I feel so shy about mentioning I blog about books. I guess I lack confidence in what I do.

  8. I may need to talk to people at a local indie bookstore!

    I do already donate books to my library, but I never saw it as networking.

  9. Great ideas. I used to be able to do a lot of real life networking but now that I'm the primary caregiver for my mom the opportunities are there but I can't attend. It's good that there are so many virtual ways, such as with this virtual convention, to stay in the game.

  10. A wonderful posting another posting I thought was incredibly inspirational was Alba here is the link Read this in full, it only takes one person:D


  11. It's taken me many Real Life places as shared and posted today !

  12. You guys have done so many amazing things using your blog. It's amazing how much you can help people through books. I definitely need to find an independent book store near me and see if I can organize great events like you. I do try to donate books to the library when I can, and I know a friend who is trying to get some books to help send to underprivileged schools which I definitely will help out with. Amazing tips here :)

  13. This is such an encouraging and interesting article, so many great ideas.

    I live in a very small village in Scotland, but we have just acquired a beautiful new library in our nearest town, and I have recently approached the librarian with a view to setting up a book discussion group (not one where you all read the same book, more a chat about new books, sharing of recommendations, maybe speakers who can talk about themes in books, such as beekeeping or painting) - she has been wonderful, much more enthusiastic and helpful than I expected. Unfortunately our one local bookstore is not quite so welcoming, but this post has given me a lot more ideas for the library, so thanks very much!