A few months ago, I would have told you that I’m the last person who should write on this topic. I am your stereotypical writer-introvert who would rather hide out on the couch with a fuzzy blanket and a stack of books. I’m still working on this and have to make an effort to get out to social events. It doesn’t come easy for me, which is how I know firsthand what makes the difference for introverted authors.
When Covid locked us all indoors, I wasn’t all that perturbed by the isolation. I thought, “I can handle this.” My job can mostly be done by computer anyway. Well, as you can probably all relate, that got old.
Once things started to loosen up, I descended upon the city with a new-found appetite. One that boldly begged:
Talk to Me
Knowing full well that grocery store employees just wanted to get back to their jobs, I decided to aspire to bigger prospects, in more professional settings, and level-up my challenges to…social events.
Did you gasp? I sure did. And I knew there was no way my anxious, awkward self was going to trot off to some convention and make a bunch of new contacts as if gathering sea shells. It just doesn’t work that way for me. But I do understand that value one-on-one coaching can bring.
I know this in part because of the huge leap in skills we provide through our book coaching services. But I also know because Rebecca speaks very highly of her own coaches in the financial and business sector. So, I sought help and hired a public speaking coach.
Over the course of a few months, I learned some important things. First, that the only thing “wrong” with me was a lack of confidence. I was not less interesting than others, I was not incapable, I was not even all that awkward. I was just overburdened with nerves.
I stressed to my coach that my nerves were so bad, I could hardly connect with people even when I wanted to. This led to the second most important thing I learned with her: to listen.
I always thought I was a pretty good listener, but it turns out, I was letting my nerves get in the way of that too. We, as a culture, have an ingrained problem with listening. Everyone wants to be heard, nobody wants to be wrong, and we’re all terrified of being called out. This leads to lackluster conversations and a chronic difficulty with mutual understanding.
Truly listening to someone, means forgetting yourself. It means suspending the trails in your mind that are analyzing, correcting, judging, and calculating your all-important response. When you’re really listening, you’re not thinking about those other things. You’re focused on the person in front of you and all your effort is put toward internalizing and sincerely connecting with what they’re trying to say.
Making Better Connections
I recently went to an author event. Not one I was selling at; I was the visitor. The first thing I noticed when I walked in, was that they weren’t all science fiction and fantasy. I know. Stunning, right? Sometimes I get a little too sucked into my own genre and forget there are many more out there.
That day, I bought a romance, a western, and a memoir about breast cancer. I chose those books because I got into deep conversation with those writers. I asked them what their book was about and I let them tell me—no interrupting, no scrutinizing. They told me why they wrote the books they did. They told me about the messages and emotions within. And they told me what they hoped it would mean to readers.
I left the festival with a clearer view of the stories behind stories. And an intimate experience with allowing people to be heard.
Networking as a Bridge
We’ve all put a little too much weight on that word “networking.” Like a sale is the end-all-be-all. In reality, networking is just going out and meeting people, having conversation. The real goal, is to find someone you can help and who might be able to help you in return.
You do not need to be a perfect communicator to do this. It’s impossible to be a social butterfly if you don’t start out as a caterpillar first.
Don’t expect perfection of yourself. Expect composure and a willingness to learn. When you fully embrace not being the expert in the room, you’ll be much more open to hearing other professionals out. That’s when doors open up.
But Wait, There's More
This post largely touched on the soft skills of relationship building. Which should logically come first. However, there’s tons to talk about on this topic.
Making an effort at marketing can open so many doors that would otherwise stay closed. While networking is intimidating, it’s also crucial for author businesses. For this reason, and because our dear readers have expressed interest in this subject, Rebecca and I wrote several posts on how to become a better networker:
If there’s an aspect of networking you find particularly elusive you’d like included in the list, drop us a note. We’re listening.