Thursday, November 7, 2019

Talk to Me

From Jim

I’ve just returned from my annual pilgrimage to Bouchercon, the world’s largest crime-writers and -readers conference. This year it was held in Dallas and welcomed 1,700 enthusiasts. I’ve been recuperating for three days, totally knocked out and sick. Bouchercon is not for the faint of heart, but I loved every minute of it!

Conferences present a great opportunity to network, meet other writers, and—more important—readers. I take full advantage of that opportunity by stopping to speak to anyone and everyone I can. In the corridors, panel rooms, restaurants, and the bar, you’ll find me chatting with someone. And that’s because I love doing it. It’s not a chore for me. I truly enjoy meeting these people and hearing what they’re reading or writing.

The key to my networking is this: I don’t have a strategy beyond simply doing what comes naturally. Listening and talking. Some folks like to talk more than listen, and that’s fine too. Others are shy and prefer to listen. I try to introduce them to all and get them to engage. I’ve met hundreds of writers and readers this way and am always glad to see them at subsequent conferences. My glad-handing has earned me the nickname “The Mayor” from a couple of writer friends. But I’m not running for anything. I’m just enjoying myself.

With Jan Grape

This year, I flew directly from India to Dallas for the conference. It didn't matter that I was sick, jet-lagged, and exhausted, I dived right into the spirit of things and hit the bar to seek out old and new friends alike. I got to thank some friends for blurbing my upcoming release, TURN TO STONE, and gladly accept a couple of requests to blurb others’ books as well. I look forward to reading the latest mysteries before they’re released if I can fit them into my writing schedule. That’s part of networking, too. We have to be ready to pay it forward and backward in our community. It’s important to lend support whenever you can.

Another way of supporting is to attend the panels you’re interested in. In the best of all worlds, your friends’ panels are also interesting, because it’s extra important to attend those. And ask questions during the Q & A portion. But make sure you’re asking questions and not pontificating about your own work. Be generous to those who are having their brief moment in the spotlight.

Terry Shames, Helen Smith, Jamie Mason,
 Amy Reade, and David Heska Wanbli Weiden.
 Missing from photo and conference Susan C. Shea  :-(

Buy books if you can! It’s not always possible due to finances, of course, but writers understand that. They appreciate a purchase and a request for a signature, but also they’re thrilled to be told something nice about their work as well. For that reason, I try to remember to leave a brief review on Amazon and Goodreads for the books I’ve read. And it’s nice to give a round of applause when something good happens!

Kellye Garrett, Lori Rader-Day, me, and Holly West 

But I suppose my best advice for networking is to be a good friend. A friend will listen and share and laugh and commiserate if necessary. This isn’t always like networking in a business environment, though there’s some of that as well. But we’re generally not networking with publishers and agents at conferences. More often it’s readers and writers. And we don’t need to treat them like prospective clients or sales opportunities. Treat them as friends and you’ll be rewarded in kind. And buy them a drink once in a while, alcoholic or not. Most of the networking will take place in the bar.



Brenda Chapman said...

Jim - Your generous spirit shines through in this post. So pleased to have met you in Vancouver :-)

Susan C Shea said...

Jim, you are the ultimate nice guy and someone I always look for at conventions because in a huge crowd of strangers and in a noisy bar, you'll greet me as a friend.